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Mt. Pleasant Area offers students healthy lunch choices

| Wednesday, March 19, 2014, 9:01 p.m.
Kelly Vernon | The Mt. Pleasant Journal
Shay Guzy, 6, samples and likes a 'Wellness Wednesday' menu item recently at Rumbaugh Elementary School.
Kelly Vernon | The Mt. Pleasant Journal
Mt. Pleasant Area School District food services director Joe Beaman prepares samples of rice with vegetables on a recent 'Wellness Wednesday' lunch held in the cafeteria at Rumbaugh Elementary School in Mt. Pleasant.

Mt. Pleasant Area School District is in its second year of introducing students to healthier menu items, as well as “Wellness Wednesdays” at the elementary level.

District food services director Joe Beaman rotates each week to the district's elementary schools with a healthy food item for students to sample.

Some of the samples have included brown rice with vegetables, spinach pasta salad, lima beans and mushroom salad, chick pea and tomato salad and sweet and sour, two-bean salad.

Beaman said the program has been very successful.

Students that try the featured item receive a sticker which proclaims “I tried something new.”

Students are trying new and unique food items and liking them.

He said it has also been an opportunity for students to try something new, and realize they may not have liked it, but still having the pride of the experience.

Beaman added elementary school aged students seem more eager to try different foods.

His goal is to sharpen the focus on the importance of the food groups and how they are incorporated to overall wellness.

When he finds wellness Wednesday samples that students really enjoy, he adds them to the menu.

“I think ‘Wellness Wednesday' is an awesome idea. It encourages kids to choose their foods wisely,” said Paige Gonzalez, a sixth-grade student at Donegal Elementary School.

Ramsay Elementary School sixth-grader Cammi Neiderhiser also likes Wellness Wednesday sample and thinks it is a great idea because it is an interesting way to try new and healthy foods.

Shawn Thompson of Norvelt said his children, Chase, 9, and Sybil, 6, began taking packed lunches after the menu changes midway through last school year. However, he said they try the Wellness Wednesday samples, but generally are not fond of them.

Beaman said a different program, titled “Taking Nutrition Global” is offered at the district's junior high and senior high school level.

That program features food from a different country each month.

Then students have an opportunity to sample a chosen recipe from the that region.

Students can also receive interesting facts about that country upon request.

“Our team is already working on changes for next year. We would like to have more nutritional and educational information available,” Beaman said.

Kelly Vernon is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-547-5722 or