When members of the school board, faculty and staff, and community members filed into the Education Center for Red Lion Area's school board meeting earlier this monht, they were offered a complimentary slush puppy instead of the usual cup of water.
Tonja Wheeler, assistant business manager, and Erin Griffin, newly recruited to help in the business office, wanted to give attendees a taste of one of the many new additions being brought to the Red Lion Area School District this school year.
Wheeler and Griffin also presented the school board their plan to improve the district's food service department.
The district menu features several changes. First, there will be a five-week rotating schedule. That means all grade levels will be eating the same meal every day, and the same menu will be served every five weeks.
Second, all grade levels will be eating the same meal. Wheeler said that change should bring the district "better buying power" as well as helping families plan home meals.
"If a parent has a child in elementary and one in high school and finds they both had chicken for lunch, then maybe mom will decide roast beef for dinner," she said.
In the schools: At Red Lion Area Senior High School, several changes have been introduced for the 2013-14 school year.
In a move approved at last week's meeting Debra Brown is the full-time cafeteria manager.
In addition, the soup and salad bar is being brought back. And Subway will be coming back into the school cafeteria. The district was able to cut a deal with the franchise so students can get a 6-inch sub, chips and milk for $2.45.
And the high school will be adding slush puppies to the menu. Wheeler said the slush puppies were tested at the sports camps during the summer and were a huge success. The slush puppies are made of 100 percent fruit juice and are an equivalent to one fruit serving.
At the elementary schools, Wheeler and Griffin said they hope to increase the percentage of students participating in the breakfast program.
Breakfast is currently served in the cafeterias of the elementary schools. But a pilot program called "Breakfast in the Classroom" is under way at Pleasant View and Mazie Gable elementary schools.
It will allow students more time to eat breakfast. And if it's successful, it will be expanded to the other elementaries.
Other initiatives: The district is also trying to ensure that it receive menu certification from the state; the program monitors factors such as calorie intake and saturated fats.
If Red Lion meets state standards, it could receive about $36,000 more in state reimbursement based on the nearly 603,000 meals served last year.
And district-wide, meals have been tweaked based on the response from students who were surveyed on what they'd like to see on the menu.
"We have done some surveying with out students and what they want to eat and tried to find those items that meet the federal guidelines and implemented them into our menus," Wheeler said.
One example is Papa John's pizza, which will be served twice a month at the junior and senior high school.
Superintendent Scott Deisley said Papa John's is a corporate sponsor and students who receive free and reduced lunch would be able to get it for lunch, is so desired, at no extra fee.