Remember the globs of “mystery meat” and “rolled rubber roast” we complained about when we ate hot lunch? Well, that was long ago and far away. Now the students of the Devils Lake Schools have fresh fruits and vegetables each and every day more than once a day, too.
Todd Axdahl who has been the head cook at Central Middle School for the past four years is enthusiastic about his job. He says it’s the students and his great staff that make coming to work so much fun every day. You can tell he means it, too.
After a long morning of preparations and serving over 500 fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth graders Axdahl retires to his “office,”a nook under the stairway behind the scenes where he peruses a three ring binder of recipes for casseroles and hot dishes the school lunch personnel have compiled and tweeked for years, maybe decades.
“These kids are eating things here they often don’t get at home like hot dishes. They love them. So we are tweeking the recipes that have become their favorites so they will comply with the new regulations,” he explains.
“Take the tater tot hot dish that we just served today,” Axdahl continues.
“Ordinarily I would have made that with 120 lbs of hamburger, to serve 500. Now I use 80 lbs. and its better beef.”
Mary Leiphon who sits at the till and sees that the students each enter their code into the keypad says there is much less waste now than there used to be. “They used to use two or three garbage cans for the refuse each day, now it’s more likely only one,” she said. She’s been doing this for six years.
Another thing that has changed, according to Axdahl is that the students go through the line and they take everything but it’s not already dished up for them in little paper cups or dishes, instead a server on the line will measure out each portion for each student and place it on the rectangular divided plates. The salad bar that has only fruits and vegetables on it - no jello or pudding - is open for anyone to take in addition to the hot meal. There are no limits on the salad bar.
If a student is still hungry, Axdahl says, they can go through the line a second time and purchase another scoop of hot dish or whatever is on the menu for the day.
He says the new program will be going through some changes again next year, the regulations will get a little tighter, they’ll have to make some more changes but on the whole it’s been a pretty good thing for Central Middle School students.
Page 2 of 2 - At first, he said, there were complaints, but lately he hasn’t heard too much about it as the students get used to it. “I like the fact that we can introduce them to new things, new fruits and vegetables,” Axdahl said. All in all he says its been successful for the school.
His only complaint is that he wishes more students would take advantage of their hot breakfast they serve at the school. Each morning they provide a hot breakfast, too. “We get maybe a quarter of the students we do at lunch time. I wish more of them would take advantage of it,” Axdahl said.
A hot breakfast, a mid-morning snack and a good, healthy meal at noon time - sounds pretty good.