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School Days: Morgan Hill Unified School District Evolution of a Lunch Program By Morgan Hill Unified School District Staff A healthy, enjoyable and socially responsible approach to food is the passion of Michael Jochner, Director of Child Nutrition Services for the Morgan Hill Unified School District. A gourmet chef by profession, Jochner is introducing changes to the school lunch program to achieve this goal in a way that allows students to be part of the solution. Michael has worked as a professional chef in the Bay Area for over twenty years. Previously, he managed Bon Appetit as chef at the Google corporate campus for seven years. Prior to that he devoted 17 years as chef with La Rinconada, Bistro Elan, and 231 Ellsworth. “I’m excited to be collaborating with the district’s food service staff in Michael Jochner bringing a fresh approach to school lunches. Our shared goal is to edu- cate our students about healthy eating and environmental sustainability at the same time.” After carefully reviewing the lunch program, Michael worked with district staff to create an action plan to achieve short-term improvements while pursuing a longer-term goal. “Our shared vision is to empower our students to eat healthy and practice environmental sustainability by allowing them to be agents of change when it comes to: building partnerships with Patty Cattoor local farms; scratch cooking; sampling and testing of healthy food choices; and sustainable food service product changes in the schools. Michael teamed up with Patty Cattoor, the school district’s Supervisor of Student Nutrition, to look at food utensils, containers, and napkins and create a “farm fresh” motif for food serving areas across school district campuses. Knowing that selecting food items and utensils is the student’s choice to make, they wanted to provide students with choices that clearly benefit their personal health and the health of the planet. Historically, school lunch programs have provided students with a “spork kit,” an all-in-one alternative including a reusable plastic straw, a combination spoon-and- fork utensil, and a napkin all wrapped in a sealed plastic bag. Lots of these kits ended up in cafeteria trash bins. This plasticware would persist in our landfills long after we are gone if it weren’t for the fact that our school district has GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN begun substituting biodegradable products in its place. We’ve begun providing biodegradable forks and spoons from EcoProducts. These utensils are plant-based, made from renewable sources, and USDA Certified Biobased, which meets high standards as compostable products. We’re also providing students with lunch napkins that are smaller in size and made from 100% recycled paper. The napkins we now provide meet Ecologo standards, are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, and have a certified Green Seal. We no longer “package up” multiple items that students may not need and would otherwise be more likely to throw away. When it comes to serving healthy lunches while improving environmental sustainability, MHUSD is making incremental changes for a lasting impact. december 2018-january 2019 gmhtoday.com 65