Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

September 27, 2012

Barbecue shows AHS ahead of curve on healthy food

School's garden produce served

By Judy Wakefield
Staff Writer

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ess sodium and more fruits and vegetables is now a national rallying cry for healthier school lunches. It’s old news in Andover, as a healthier lunch menu at its high school has been mandated for years.

Even teens grabbing a slice of pizza in the cafeteria are not loading up on sodium. It’s a whole wheat pizza being served and a fruit cup and a salad always goes with it for the $3.10 price.

“We’ve been serving pizza that way for three years,” said Gail Koutroubas, Food Services Director. “The new regulations are not that drastic for us. Our kids have gotten used to our healthier school menu. We’ve been reducing sodium and serving fruits and vegetables for years. We trained our kids well.”

Guidelines approved by the USDA earlier this year set limits on calories and salt and also phase in whole grains. Schools must now offer at least one vegetable or fruit per meal, in accordance with the new USDA rule.

Last Wednesday, Sept. 19, Koutroubas and staffers hosted a community-wide barbecue to highlight good eating habits. Andover High School’s “Farm to School Week” barbecue event highlighted local fruits and vegetables on the me

nu. Several School Committee members and selectmen attended, along with Superintendent of Schools Marinel McGrath.

Koutroubas said local produce was eaten – very local, in fact, as tomatoes and lettuce from the Andover High sustainable garden were served.

Local farm produce, including corn-on-the-cob, peaches and various vegetables, also was served with the veggie burgers and apple cider. Participating farms included Donabedian Farm of Salem, N.H. and Lookout Farm.

“It was just a great way for us to show the community what we are doing. It was awesome,” Koutroubas said.

Andover School Nutrition was recently recognized as a winner of the U.S. Healthier School Challenge at its three middle schools. As reported in last year’s Back to School guide in the Townsman, Sen. John Kerry proclaimed Andover’s school nutrition as a “model for the whole nation,” said Koutroubas, the past president of the School Nutrition Association

The Boston-based television show, Chronicle, filmed the sustainable garden this week for an upcoming show, Koutroubas said. It was not announced when that segment will be aired.

The AHS green team has also made sure the school stays healthy with recycling issues. Styrofoam trays have been replaced with biodegradable trays throughout town schools after the Green Team requested it.

“We are working hand-in-hand with the the town and reminding our kids about the importance of recycling,” Koutroubas said.

Those biodegradable trays are being collected for recycling, said Sandy Gerraughty, Public Works business manager.

“Our plan is to start with the high school and then roll out a successful way to collect those trays in every school...It’s costly and no one has this in their budget, so it’s slow now,” Gerraughty said. “But it will be slow, smart and then successful. We are committed

to this.”