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Change on the menu
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Fourth grade students at Park Elementary vote for which menu theyd like to see served for school lunch in the future. They chose from 11 options offered by students in Eric Dowsons sixth grade students. - photo by VERONICA COONS, Great Bend Tribune

Students at Park Elementary school Friday voted for their favorite among 11 menu proposals as offered by Eric Dowson’s sixth grade class.  For the past three weeks,  the class has been studying the progressive era of the late 1890s to the early 1920s in American History.  The period was marked by an increase in social activism, with sweeping changes brought forth such as the women suffrage movement and prohibition to name a few.

“We learned about how the people made things change,” said student Sammii Bisterfelt.  

Dowson asked students to determine an issue they felt required social change to work on.  According to Lexi Ratcliff, another student in Dowson’s class, the class went with a suggestion from Principal Heke, and decided to campaign for change to the school lunch menu.  

Students had to research basic regulations of the Healthy Hunger Free Kids act, and learned about how many calories a lunch could have, and about servings sizes.  Each group had to come up with a menu that fit the guidelines, and then they had to promote their idea to the school.

One of the lessons students said they learned included the importance of putting effort into a campaign.

“We learned that you can’t slack off or you’ll end up with a poster that really doesn’t look very good and no one will want to vote for your idea,” one student said.  Another student came away with the importance of tracking time and spending on a campaign to determine success.  

“We had to record how much money we spent on supplies, and then we’ll have to figure out how much money each vote cost us,” another said.  Some people can get a lot of votes without spending very much, and others can spend a lot and still not win, he added.

The importance of location and message came through to still another student.  

“We learned we need to be careful what we put on our posters, and where we put them to get the most attention,” she said.  

The exercise inspired some of the students to look ahead.  Bisterfelt said she would like to work on eliminating pollution in the world in the future, and Ratcliff is interested in campaigning to clean up toxic waste.  

The class hopes when the votes are counted, they may be able to convince USD 428 Food Service Director Carl Sprague to adopt that menu into the regular rotation of meals served throughout the district.  While Sprague said he appreciates hearing from the kids what they would like to have for lunch, he is cautious about making any promises.

“Over the years, we’ve had some pretty good ideas from kids,” he said.  “Of course, it all comes down to cost, time and equipment.” he said.  

All district elementary schools, the middle school and high school and Holy Family Catholic School have meals delivered from the central kitchen each day.  This arrangement has helped save the district money over the years, but it has resulted in certain limitations also.  Sprague has through trial and error been able to determine which foods transport better than others.  

Mashed potatoes, for example, transport better than tater tots.  The tots tend to dry out in transport.  Other things, like lasagna, would require lots of pans.  

One other factor is how the meal will fit into a week’s worth of menus.  In order to comply with the act, Sprague has to balance a weeks worth of servings of several types of food in order to meet regulations.  
“I really do want to offer what the kids want,” he said.  “It’s a challenge with the new healthy regulations.”