Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh is offering a new, nutritious hot lunch program for its students. The initiative not only encourages healthful eating habits, but the menu also changes by the day, making the wholesome meals popular among the students, faculty and administration.
The school’s administration understands the many benefits of maintaining a healthful diet. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture stated in their Dietary Guidelines for Americans that making informed food choices is “vital to good health and is absolutely essential for the healthy growth and development of children and adolescents.” According to the HHS, sensible eating habits also reduce the risk of heart disease, bone loss, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, breathing disorders and other diseases. The HHS concludes that a healthy diet along with physical activity can keep your body active and strong, preventing obesity.
When creating a wholesome lunch menu for Hillel Academy students, Chef Mordy Brown takes a couple of things into account.
“I base it on the criteria for the Pre-K Counts Government Head Start program,” says Brown. “Based on their guidelines, I work my way around and see which [foods] the kids like best.” Chef Brown focuses not only on the health aspect but also on the popularity factor.
“If I see something kids don’t like, I won’t put it on the menu again. Sometimes I’ll even ask the kids for a new idea and put it in for the next month.” By serving well liked, nutritious meals, which include servings of fruits and vegetables, young students may learn to appreciate the importance of healthful eating.
A hot lunch at Hillel Academy might include vegetable beef stew, brown rice and pineapple, or meat loaf, roasted potatoes, green beans and apples. Ninth-grade student Chaya Sara Marizan, a regular in the Hillel Academy lunch line, recommends the lunches because they are nutritious and well priced.
The USDA pyramid suggests that a well-balanced diet is comprised of the following food groups: carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, meat and some oils. A typical lunch at Hillel Academy contains just that. Just as the pyramid indicates, a meal should include a serving of fruits and vegetables, a grain portion, and a protein component, either dairy or meat. Fats and oils should be limited when possible.
Why is it important for students to maintain a healthful diet?
“I think it’s important to eat healthy because it helps you through your day and to focus in school,” said Chaya Sara. The USDA writes that scientists have proven that normal brain function requires nutrients that come from wholesome eating habits. Proper nutrition is necessary for brain development, which is needed for cognitive tasks such as concentration, attention and memory.
The advantages of a well-balanced diet are clear. By encouraging sensible eating habits at school through the new lunch program, Hillel Academy is recognizing that a healthy body makes a healthy mind. The students at Hillel Academy now have a lunch program that satisfies their tastes and improves their well-being.
(Maia Wiesenfeld is in the 10th grade at Hillel Academy.)
The Chronicle Cooks
This recipe from Hillel Academy’s Chef Brown is his nutritious alternative to store-bought veggie burgers or hamburgers. One of the things that they’re trying to accomplish, he said, is to keep the menu healthy.
2 pints cleaned and peeled portabella mushrooms
1 large onion
2 medium sized carrots
3 stalks of celery
4-5 peeled and boiled
1 15 ounce can red kidney beans
Up to 1/2 cup potato flakes (if needed for thickness)
Chop vegetables. Sautee until cooked through (soft). Add potatoes then process in the food processor. Pour into bowl and mix eggs and beans into the mixture. Add salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste. Add potato flakes if needed (if mixture is too loose).
Bake on a greased pan in oven at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes on each side or until golden brown.