First lady singles out Vt. school for keeping kids healthy - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

First lady singles out Vt. school for keeping kids healthy

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MILTON, Vt. -

Preps inside the Milton Elementary School kitchen start long before the lunch crowd rolls in.

"Chopping mixing, stirring, grilling, a little bit of everything," said Steven Marinelli, the food service manager.

All of these fresh foods are a welcome sight for Marinelli.

"I got pineapple and grapes and cantaloupe and stuff," student Cierra Jarvis said.

Marinelli's five tips for getting kids to eat more fruits and vegetables were recently featured as part of first lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" initiative aimed at tackling childhood obesity.

Tip one-- PRESENTATION.

"Kids eat with their eyes, and so you have to have things that are colorful and attractive just to get their attention," Marinelli explained.

Marinelli says VARIETY is also key and that it's a regular part of what kids find in the lunch line.

"If there is something that you don't like then you can have something else," student Lauryn Holsopple said.

Mixing things up has led to some unlikely hits.

"Brussels sprouts are a perfect example," Marinelli said. "We do roasted Brussels sprouts. First time out they don't move too fast; second time out a little better. Now we'll go through 40 pounds of Brussels sprouts in two days."

STAFF TRAINING is tip number three.

"They make the vegetables taste good," student Zach Popke said.

Marinelli says making sure staff members are working with the best tools and techniques makes a difference.

"One of my goals when I came to this district was to eliminate the freezer to oven products, to use whole proteins and to use fresh product in our service," he said.

GETTING KIDS INVOLVED comes in at number four.

The district has cooking classes and contests for students to show them what goes into crafting the menu. Suggestions from diners are also routine.

"You can pick out like as much fruit as you want instead of getting a certain amount," Jarvis noted.

Marinelli's fifth tip is all about MAKING LUNCH AN EXPERIENCE.

His staff is friendly and knowledgeable about what they're serving, and it's translating to high marks from students.

"Out of 10, probably a 10," Popke said.

But the man who's been behind meal plans for decades relies less on those numbers and more on what he sees.

"You'll see them come in; they'll rush up to the lines. They kind of poke over the line to see what's available," he said. "So it's not just, 'Oh man, we've got to have lunch,' it's "Oh! What's for lunch?'"

And regardless of what it is, the offerings are filled with fruits and veggies, and chances are these kids are eating them.

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