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School lunch heroes: Meet the people building nutritious, sustainable food habits in schools

Team Impossible

The dedication and leadership of school food service directors who strive to offer nutrient-rich, planet-friendly foods are helping to encourage eating habits that are better for their students and the planet we all share. National School Lunch Week is the perfect opportunity to share the stories of how three inspiring school lunch program directors are making real impact through their food programing in schools.

Food Service Directors can instill eating habits in the lives of their students that focus on nutrition and reduce their environmental impact

Amy Faricy is the Manager of Menu Services at Douglas County School District in Colorado. Her favorite school lunch growing up was “Fiesta Pizza.” Today, she blends her background as a dietitian with her experience in food service to expose kids to the benefits of healthy eating.

Michael Manning serves as the Director of Food and Nutrition Services at Richfield Public Schools in Minnesota. As a student, he most looked forward to Chicken Nugget Day every Thursday. Since then, he’s developed two strong passions: serving people and serving food. He built his career in school nutrition programs out of his love for serving members of his community.

Mandy Sosnowski is the Director of Food and Nutrition Services at a school district in Michigan. School lunch wasn’t offered at her school growing up; but while she was working for a food service company early in her career, she attended a meeting about the work being done in the K-12 space. She quickly dove in, and never looked back. 

Despite their varied backgrounds, passions, and introductions to school lunch, a common purpose unites their work: Amy, Michael and Mandy want to instill eating habits in the lives of their students that focus on foods that are nutritious and mindful of the planet. Here at Impossible Foods, we are excited to help schools meet their nutrition goals.

In Michael’s words, “the main goal is to feed students food that they’ll love, tastes good and is nutritious.” But, Mandy explains that it’s not as easy as putting a piece of pizza on the plate. Questions that Mandy thinks about on a regular basis: “Can we physically get the pizza? Do we have staff to cook it? What type of pizza are we serving? Is it whole grain? Will the kids actually eat it? Do we have the equipment to cook it?”

“The school is the center of the community”

Community involvement and understanding around school lunch food programs is fundamental to their success. Amy points out that a stronger community understanding of what foods students will actually eat minimizes waste in the lunchroom. Her district makes it a priority to serve a variety of foods – an unassumingly daunting task when considering all the boxes that need to be checked before the meal makes it onto the plate. There is an incredibly fine line to balance when developing menus that meet the federal regulations and nutrition requirements, while also making sure kids love the food.

And all of those boxes need to be checked before program directors can consider what foods are also better for the planet. 

The power and purpose of community building through Mandy, Michael, and Amy’s school lunch programs often extends beyond the students and into the broader community in their districts. 

After all, as Michael sees it,“the school is the center of the community.”

He pushes to hire diverse staff that reflects the community, and often tries to hire people whose children or grandchildren attend schools in the district so the team has a deeper investment in the program. 

Mandy’s district’s school lunch programs has become a critical support pillar of her community. During the pandemic, her district continued providing curb-side meals for students to ensure they would still get a well-balanced meal while learning at home. 

In Colorado, Amy includes surrounding schools in nutrition events for their greater community. One of her favorites is a farmers market with local vendors to celebrate Colorado Proud School Meal Day. Her district also engages in nutrition education classes throughout the year where teachers showcase the science behind how food is made and what nutrients it's made of.

Impossible Foods products are a delicious part of the lunchroom

From the Impossible Burgers in Amy and Mandy’s districts to the Impossible Ramen Bowls and Impossible Meatballs on Spaghetti that Michael’s district serves, Impossible Foods products make it easy to serve delicious, better-for-the-planet foods that kids love – and that already meet federal regulations and requirements.

Students are loving these meals created with Impossible meat made from plants – a fantastic first step in developing a deep connection between the food on their plate and its impact on the planet. From there, they can begin inspiring the community around them by educating their parents, siblings and friends.

Join us in celebrating school lunches all year 

This constant, delicious work from Amy, Michael, Mandy and so many other individuals and teams across the country can instill health-focused and planet-friendly eating habits in students and their surrounding communities. 

So join us in celebrating school lunches all year by showing appreciation for your district’s food service teams and making planet-minded food choices both in and outside of the cafeteria.

If you want to make Impossible Foods part of your lunch program, get in touch: impossiblefoods.com/schools(opens in a new tab)

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