BUENA PARK Brendan Shields abides by a simple rule:
If I wouldnt feed it to my daughter, Centralia Elementary School Districts director of food services said, I wont serve it to the kids in this district.
On Thursday, Centralia joined 70 districts including Tustin Unified in the California Thursdays initiative, pledging to serve students meals once a week made from scratch with ingredients purchased in-state.
The districts kickoff celebration included meal sampling, chef demonstrations and a fruits and vegetables stand for students and their families. Food experts shared nutrition tips.
Nine-year-old Billie Muro, a fourth-grader at Danbrook Elementary, savored the ceviche and pasta bolognese.
I like the flavors, she said.
Centralia plans to serve these special meals up to three times a month, Shields said. Our goal is for every day to be a California Thursday.
This is one more step in our effort to provide a quality, healthy, freshly prepared school meal to our students, Superintendent Norma Martinez said. Every year we seem to make an adjustment, an improvement to our food service, and this is just one more natural step for us.
Every summer, Shields eight years Centralias director of food services assesses the districts lunch menu.
Hell try new recipes with healthier ingredients and include students in the sampling process. Shields has a Rolodex of local companies from which he purchases ingredients, and he makes all the sauces from scratch. During the school year, he and his crew make meals in the districts central kitchen at Dysinger Elementary, which are then distributed to the other campuses.
Centralia serves approximately 800 breakfasts and 3,000 lunches every day, Shields said. The department also caters board meetings and school events.
Menu items include salad, pasta, chicken and vegetable egg rolls, deli wraps and mac and cheese. The departments Twitter account, which Shields runs, posts photos of meals and shares monthly menu additions.
The efforts that all of us have to keep ourselves healthy as adults are definitely efforts we bring to our students, Martinez said. Its been a dramatic shift from previous years. Not a slight shift, but a dramatic shift.
Above all else, Shields said he wants parents and children alike asking themselves questions about their food:
What is this?
Where is it coming from?
How is it made?
Eating habits start young, he said. Parents do what they can at home, but at school, we are an educational environment, so we should be doing everything we can to help. The learning doesnt stop in the lunch room. Were demonstrating the best eating habits and creating the best food we can for our kids.