Pork adds to local school lunch versatility, nutrition

Thursday, October 11, 2012
Judy Lubben, food service director for Le Mars Community Schools, displays the Mr. Rib pork product for school lunch, similar to that periodically available in the fast-food industry. The Mr. Rib is among school menu items designed based on product appeal for today's younger consumers.

Pork producers locally and nationwide often point to today's products as adding versatility and quality to food menus.

Judy Lubben, food service director at Le Mars Community Schools, agrees that the use of pork along with beef and chicken in menus for her school lunch program can do just that.

"We try to serve a variety of foods with pork in the menu at least once a week," she said. "Kids need to see variety in a menu and like it."

She said pork and ham patties and diced ham on the salad bar are among the food offerings available for the approximately 1,450 students participating in the lunch program at Le Mars Community Schools.

"Shredded pork is another of our popular pork items," Lubben said.

At times, shredded pork is mixed with shredded cabbage for added student appeal.

"I love 'from scratch' foods but they're not always easy or quickly prepared," Lubben added.

"Fast-food -- pizza and tacos for instance -- appears to be the ticket right now for everyone, including students, because we're such a busy society today," Lubben said.

It can often be a challenge to be innovative in the planning of the lunch room menus, she said.

Alternate food choice options are a must to encourage young diners to eat well and healthy, she said.

Lubben said the younger students she has observed are likely to be "eating everything." She's unsure if this due to "at home encouragement" to do so or because the younger students just want to "eat up" at meal time.

It's different at high school, where upperclassmen can choose to go off campus to eat.

Meanwhile, Lubben said she welcomes the opportunity to include pork as well as beef and chicken in her lunch menus.

"Ours is a rural community and farming is an important industry," she said. "I feel it's important that our students know the foods produced within our local area."

She likes students to see that these meat products can be prepared in a variety of ways to encourage good nutrition.

"Pork is among the quality meat products that make this possible," Lubben said.