Local ‘celebrity’ chefs take turns behind the school lunch line

Serving up smiles

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Washougal Mayor Sean Guard serves lunch to children at Gause Elementary School in celebration of National School Lunch Week.

School lunches have definitely evolved in the past 65 years. Gone are the mystery meat and rubbery pizza.

Instead, students have choices of fresh fruit, veggies and whole grains in addition to traditional favorites such as burgers and chicken nuggets.

“My lunches at school were boring compared to what they have now,” said Washougal Mayor Sean Guard. “(They have) fajitas, chili, and lots of fresh options. Our lunches were good, though. My neighbor was the head cook forever. I think it is better now, just fast!”

Guard and members of the City Council spent last week serving lunches as “celebrity chefs,” to commemorate National School Lunch Week.

Mark Jasper, food services director for the Washougal School District, coordinated the event.

“Sodexho (food services) has a program called Serving Up Smiles during school lunch week,” he said. “We did it in Battle Ground, so I brought that to this community as well.”

Jasper contacted city and school officials to see if they’d don white hats and take a turn serving lunch.

“We had a great turnout,” he said. “The city, school district staff, a board member and even the superintendent served.

“It was such an excellent response, I couldn’t ask for more.”

Jasper said when he contacted Guard, the mayor’s response was that he wanted to do it three days instead of just one.

“It was just an awesome community response, the best I’ve ever had,” he said.

Guard enjoyed being around the students at Cape Horn Skye, Hathaway and Gause elementary schools.

“My favorite part was just interacting with the kids, seeing their smiles and doing high-fives throughout the cafeterias,” he said.

New federal rules require food service providers to include a balanced amount of whole grains, protein and a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables with their offerings.

“It’s a culture change because kids are used to just taking that one center-of-plate offering,” Jasper said. “It will take some time, but they are adapting.”

Guard, who is in a weight loss challenge with Camas Mayor Scott Higgins, was happy to see the new options.

“I think the salad and fruit tables that they offer now are cool and I saw lots of kids taking advantage of them,” he said.

Serving Up Smiles participants included Washougal City Council members Jennifer McDaniel, Caryn Plinski and Joyce Lindsay. School District participants were Dawn Tarzian, superintendent; Laura Bolt, Hathaway Elementary School principal; Mary Lou Woody, Cape Horn-Skye Elementary School principal; and Carol Baker, human resources specialist. Camas/Washougal Fire Chief Nick Swinhart also participated.