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Students at Hopewell Elementary will soon be able to choose from an expanded menu of healthy lunch options, thanks to a new lunch pilot program coming in May.

Principal David Friedrich recently announced the program featuring healthier, more natural items and local produce. 

A sample meal from the new menu includes a homemade, grilled whole breast chicken taco salad in a fresh made shell with bandito beans. The menu features unprocessed meats free of added hormones, antibiotics and artificial preservatives, as well as fresh — not frozen or canned — fruits and vegetables, many from organic or local sources, as well as whole grain breads.

In addition to a relationship with Terhune Orchards in Princeton, Hopewell Elementary also is working with a produce supplier who sources from a host of other local farms. The school’s pilot will include the purchase of cilantro, basil, parsley, red swiss chart, spinach and strawberries from local farms and Friedrich says they hope to expand this list to other vegetables as well.

Friedrich, who taught English in China and Taiwan, credits a personal interest in the types of school lunches served in elementary cafeterias throughout the world as well the school’s commitment to educating “the whole child” as inspiration for the new program.

“Countries like Japan offer grilled fish to children. Finland’s educational system is considered especially strong, and serving healthy lunch is a priority,” he said in a recent email. “Our goal is simple – to offer healthier lunches that appeal to our students.”

Along with unveiling a brand new menu, Friedrich says the school will work to reduce their overall environmental footprint by serving the new meals on reusable trays with silverware and a cup for the eco-friendly water fountain installed in the school’s cafeteria. Hopewell is currently unique among the four HVRSD elementary schools piloting such a program.

This alternative menu will be offered to interested students and staff on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the month of May for $4.75 per meal. Because of the unique nature of this pilot the schools asks families who wish to participate to commit to purchasing lunch each Tuesday and Thursday for the entire month.

The school’s existing menu will continue to be offered to all students for $2.45 per meal. Because the pilot program falls outside the National School Lunch Program, there are currently no discounts or reduction in price available. However Friedrich is working with school lunch provider Sodexo to explore options that would allow students who receive free or reduced lunch to also take advantage of the new healthy lunch offering.

Friedrich says the healthy lunch pilot is part of a larger collaboration with the Hopewell Elementary PTO to improve the cafeteria experience overall for students. Other recent efforts include painting the cafeteria and displaying student artwork as well as adding round tables with stools versus traditional rectangular tables with benches, fostering a more inviting and intimate atmosphere where students can gather together over a meal.

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