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School lunches: Natural and grilled to order
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Turlock High cafeteria employee Sandy Sessions grills up some grass fed patties. Both Turlock and Pitman high schools and Dutcher Middle and Turlock Junior High campuses will offer grass fed grilled meat options for lunch starting next week. - photo by NANCY ANGEL / The Journal

The Turlock Unified School District is saying so long to processed foods and mystery meat this year and instead offering healthier and more organic food.

Students will be surprised at the variety of healthy choices at the their school cafeteria this year. Natural grass fed chicken and beef patties are just a couple of healthy choices TUSD will offer students.

“We’re trying to move away from processed products,” said Scott Soiseth, director of child nutrition at TUSD. “For the first time in 20 years, we will serve our students natural grass fed raw patties. Our goal is for our food to be less than three ingredients.”

According to the Center for Disease Control, 17 percent of children and adolescents are obese in the United States. TUSD is hoping to reverse the cycle of bad eating habits and make a difference in the students' health.

“We’re going to roll out the grills for high school and middle school next week,” said Soiseth. “We’re going to be out there grilling for most of the school year.  We will be grilling hamburgers, natural grass fed hot dogs, and chicken breasts. We’re also going to toss in some grilled veggies and corn on the cob. Tri-tip will also be served occasionally.”

 The elementary schools will also see a major shift in food options.

“The menus at the elementary schools has also transformed,” said Soiseth. “We’re going to offering our students natural pasta, grilled burritos, tri-tip and turkey sandwiches. Our ultimate goal is to move away from packaged food.”

TUSD has also partnered up with Ag Link, a California-based owned company that works with food producers and growers to develop regional farm to school programs.

“We will continue to bring more natural produce that is locally grown in our area and we will make sure our students live a healthy and productive lifestyle in our district,” said Soiseth.