More choices, homemade options offer fresh take on school meals

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This year’s lunch menu for Westerville City Schools’ elementary, middle and high schools features several new options that may not be so new to students.

Weekly offerings for middle and high school students include BBQ pork basket, chicken BLT salad, fiesta dip and a Taco Tuesday bar. Meanwhile, elementary students can choose for the first time scrambled eggs with French toast sticks, home-baked ziti, broccoli with cheese sauce or meatball sub sandwiches. 

The district’s Food Services department revamped school menus this year, offering students more choices, more made-from-scratch options and a daily vegetarian offering.

“We’re trying to make it feel like home and get rid of that institutionalized feel,” Food Services Manager Ginger Parsons said. “It’s not just a hamburger on a bun or a chicken patty on a bun. I want to elevate that experience for students.”


She hopes the menu changes will attract more students to grab a school meal, which will be free of charge for families during the 2021-22 school year thanks to a waiver by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). (Families who receive other federal benefits such as Special Nutrition Assistance Program Benefits must still complete a meal application to continue to receive fee waiver support for other programs. The application can be found here:

Parsons also noted that families who pack lunches for their children can add a fruit, a vegetable and a carton of milk from the school cafeteria for free.

“That’s considered a reimbursable meal so families can supplement what they are already sending with kids to school,” she said. 

Parsons said milk was the most purchased item a la carte item in schools last year — a cost families don’t need to incur if they add a fruit and a vegetable.

New food options are not limited to the cafeteria. At the coffee shops at Westerville North and Westerville Central high schools, students can choose from different flatbreads, hot and cold sandwiches, salads, wraps and grab and go packs. (The coffee shop at Westerville South is planned as part of the high school’s renovation project.)

At the elementary schools, students have more a la carte snack options such as granola bars, graham snacks.

“We want to get the kids excited about school lunch,” Parsons said. “We want to provide things they want to eat but are healthy and fresh. The menu hasn’t changed a lot over the years but we want to evolve and give it a fresh look.”