Looking into a Healthy Future in Provo

Looking into a Healthy Future in Provo, Utah

The Provo school meals team has a theme every year and builds their menus and activities around it. This year’s theme is “Moving into the Future.” School Food Service Director Jenilee McComb said, “We’re always looking forward.”

To make sure the students take healthy habits into their futures, McComb buys fresh, local produce and offers incentives for children finishing their fruit and vegetable servings. She says it’s true that insisting on fresh produce can mean more effort, higher costs, and more labor in preparation.


“It can be a hunt but it’s worth it,” McComb said, whose motto is “Utah first.” She tries her best to source through local farms.

The school district had been serving fresh fruit and vegetables for years, so the impact of the new guidelines was not so dramatic. Cooking more from scratch meant more labor, but McComb said, “It’s worth it to get healthier food served to the kids.”

“There’s nothing better than that fresh squash from a local farm, or that ripe Utah peach or apple off the tree and in your cafeteria.”

How do the schools get the children to eat those fresh fruits and veggie?  Motivation and subtlety.










For motivation, a few days every year, it’s boys vs. girls, and eating fruits and vegetables in the school cafeteria earns you points. At the end of the lunch period, kids take their trays to the disposal area and monitors check to see that all the servings of fruits and vegetables have been finished.

If they have, the child carrying the tray earns a point for his or her “team.” McComb’s staff prepares extra servings of the fruits and vegetables on those days so the students bringing lunch from home can earn points too.

On a recent competition day when the girls won for eating more of their F&V servings, a first grade boy pouted. “I don’t like pineapple and I ate all that pineapple for nothin’!”

McComb’s subtlety is revealed when you study the menus. Favorites of the children include Rosemary Chicken, which includes sautéed fresh mushrooms, beurre blanc, parsley and rosemary; Fiesta Salad with mixed greens, rice, black beans, fresh salsa and a from-scratch tomatillo sauce and Pot Roast with roasted potatoes, carrots, turnips and parsnips. Turnips and parsnips—and the kids love it. Really!

chicken1 Roast


Paragraph 2: Provo School District’s Child Nutrition motto is “Nourishing Your Child’s Future!” We always try to purchase Utah products first.

Paragraph 6: Note* Our Child Nutrition Office Staff each carries smart phones and we mingle in the lunch room with the students. When they have eaten the pre-selected fresh fruit or vegetable (example: 1/2 cup summer squash), then we give them the point for their team. The student must eat the fruit or vegetable before leaving the table. We encourage, laugh, and applaud the students who eat their fruit and/or vegetable and receive a point for their team. This activity day is called our ‘Future Slice’ Day.

Wendy Henry-Moraskie is a blogger with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service.

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