Schools honored for healthy meals

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Whitefish schools have earned national merit for healthier — and tastier — food in the cafeterias.

Muldown Elementary and Whitefish Middle School both qualified for Bronze HealthierUS School Challenge: Smarter Awards, a prestigious national award given out to schools that continually produce exceptional food for students and staff.

“We are proud of the truly exceptional school meals program which Jay Stagg and his staff operate and also appreciate the work your district invested in creating a really strong school wellness policy,” Molly Stenberg, part of the Montana Team Nutrition Program at Montana State University, wrote to district staff.

Only five schools in Montana — two of them Whitefish schools — and 57 nationwide received a HealthierUS School Challenge award.

District Superintendent Heather Davis Schmidt said she’s heard from students how great the cafeteria food is, an accomplishment that came through hard work by Stagg and his staff.

“[Jay Stagg] worked very hard to earn that,” she said. “It’s not only about creating a great environment, but it’s about creating a healthy environment where students like to eat that food. I had the opportunity to meet with some kids today that were presenting at Rotary Club and they were talking about the food at Muldown Elementary and how much they enjoy it.”

Along with bringing healthy meals to the lunch trays of Whitefish students, Stagg also works with the Lions Club Farm to School Program and other initiatives to bring locally sourced, sustainable and healthy food to the cafeteria.

School board chair Nick Polumbus added feedback he doesn’t think most school cafeterias get — praise from the parents.

“I hear it all the time from parents, ‘Hey I went to Muldown and had lunch with my kid and I had no idea how great it is.’ That’s pretty cool to hear that kind of feedback,” he said.

For the award, each school receives an award banner, a plaque and $500 to be used in the district’s food service account.

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