- Associated Press - Saturday, August 27, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A Utah nonprofit program is replacing chicken nuggets and hot dogs with choices like pumpkin soup and red quinoa salad.

The Utah Community Action Program Central Kitchen serves meals made from scratch to children at a range of local charter schools, preschools and after-school programs, the Salt Lake Tribune reported (https://bit.ly/2bOwWs7 ).

Food contracts generate revenue for the community services group to put toward programs.

The YMCA uses the meals for kids in a local after-school program. Administration director Jenni Ericksen said packaged snacks would be the alternative for kids.

“We wouldn’t do hot meals, for sure,” Ericksen said.

Nothing on the menu is processed or fried and every meal comes with fresh fruits and vegetables.

Nutrition program manager Hayden Seeley says kids are given food seven times before the staff considers whether to pull the item.

“Brussels sprouts weren’t popular,” he admits. “But lima beans were a huge success.”

Pork is excluded due to certain religious beliefs and nuts are eschewed to avoid exposing kids who are allergic.

“We are exposing them to a much more sophisticated menu than you would think,” he said.

Ericksen said the kids mostly like the meals.

“They love the rice and beans and surprisingly they like the salads,” she said. “It’s amazing how much they will try.”

Meals also come with lean meats and bread and pasta made from whole grains.

“They’re never going to get hot dogs, they’re never going to get pizza,” he said.

The pilot program has grown from 300 daily meals five years ago.

The kitchen expects to serve 5,000 meals this school year and has the capacity to serve 6,000.

“We are scrambling to meet demand,” said Seeley. “No one else is really offering such high-quality meals.”


Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, https://www.sltrib.com

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