Cheney District a leader in healthy school lunches
Published by the Cheney Free Press, August 23, 2018
L.J. Klinkenberg is feeding your kids lentils.
The internationally-recognized executive chef turned director of nutrition services for Cheney School District has proven to be a powerful force for change in the school nutrition industry, and is helping catapult the district into the spotlight as a leader in the fight to make healthy, sustainable school lunches the norm in public schools.
Over the last decade, the district has been shifting away from premade, processed foods, and during Klinkenberg's four-year tenure as director, he has introduced a number of key changes, striving to broaden students' culinary horizons by including fresh fruits, veggies - and yes, lentils - into their lunches.
"We're an educational organization, to give kids a safe space to learn about food," Klinkenberg said. "We make brownies that have lentils in it, and then the kiddos try it and get excited."
The secret, according to Klinkenberg, just comes down to making tasty food. He emphasizes the importance of trust, and said he doesn't believe in lying to children about what's in their meals.
"I will never go to a kid and tell them that a tomato is something else. It's not fair. We're about education, not spreading false information," Klinkenberg said. "We've proven that if you put good food out there, kids will choose it."
The real trick isn't just creating food that is healthy and that kids will actually want to eat - it's doing all that while complying with strict laws that regulate lunch content, nutritional value and cost.
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