Parents of students at Barrington Middle School and Stowers Elementary School are invited to go where no parent has gone before--the kitchen of the school cafeteria.
Today, Sept. 27, from 5 to 7:30 p.m., parents of the two schools, which share a cafeteria at 13915 Barrington Stowers Dr., Lithia, are invited to check out the cafeteria kitchen and see the healthy meals food service employees are cooking up for their kids.
The Hillsborough County School District's Student Nutrition Services department is offering the 10-minute kitchen tours to give families of students attending the two schools a chance to learn how the food service program operates, including meal preparation and the check-out process.
In addition, the school district's chef, Ben Guggenmos, will demonstrate healthy school lunch recipes and provide samples.
Since joining Hillsborough County Schools in 2010, Guggenmos has made it his mission to revamp the reputation of the school lunch program, notorious for its emphasis on starchy entrees and soggy vegetables.
The former manager of the NFL's New England Patriots' luxury dining clubs and a sous chef at the Charleston Harbor Hilton, Guggenmos is now charged with delivering healthy meals to the 192,000 students in the country's eighth-largest school district.
However, Guggenmos is passing over the old standbys like sloppy joes and spaghetti in favor of healthier selections such as a spicy black bean vegetarian burrito, roasted broccoli and mac and cheese made with pureed butternut squash.
The menu changes are in response to the government releasing new nutrition standards for school meals that call for cutting sodium and calories while adding fruits and vegetables.
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 directed the U.S. Department of Agriculture to set new nutrition standards for all food served in schools to improve the health of the nation's children.
The new standards for school lunch include:
• Establishing maximum calorie and sodium limits for meals.
• Requiring schools to serve a fruit and vegetable every day at lunch and in larger portions than offered before. Portion sizes vary by age group.
• Requiring schools to offer a minimum number of leafy green vegetables, red-orange vegetables, starchy vegetables and legumes each week.
• Requiring that after the two years of implementation, all grains offered to students must be rich in whole grains such as brown rice. Breads, buns, cereals and pastas must list whole grain as the first ingredient.
• Requiring milk to be either low-fat (1 percent) or fat-free.
• Requiring that foods contain no trans fats.
It wasn't a hard sell for the Charleston, S.C., native. Guggenmos was already a convert to healthy eating. He recently lost 70 pounds through diet and exercise.
Guggenmos will be offering kitchen tours to other schools throughout the year.