Battle Ground Public Schools' Nutrition Services has a new director charting the course of the district's mealtime services for students, and it looks like healthy, tasty options with a contemporary focus are guiding the compass. James Capen, the director of nutrition services for Battle Ground Public Schools (BGPS), began his new journey earlier this school year. Capen took over for Russ Kallwick, who left BGPS for another opportunity within Sodexo, the company that the school district contracts with to provide healthy lunches and breakfasts to students.
Capen has worked in the food service industry since he himself was in high school, and is excited to satisfy the more discriminating palates of today's students with healthy options. "More and more students are food savvy," he said. "We are serving kids who know what quinoa, saturated fats and whole grains are. They see the fancy side of food on TV prepared by celebrity chefs, and that's what they think about.
"We want to be a little more sophisticated for those students who are coming up," Capen continued. "They want things like fruit parfaits and smoothies, things they see coming out in the marketplace." At Prairie High School, for example, the students can now purchase the popular Jamba Juice brand of smoothies. With ingredients like cherry purée and pineapple and orange juices, the fruit smoothies are healthy and appealing. Battle Ground High School students will be able to purchase Jamba Juice smoothies later this month.
And while Capen strives to serve the most healthy foods, he also knows that it has to taste good to a second grader, or they probably won't eat it.
That's one of the main reasons why Capen and BGPS Nutrition Services registered dietitian Kirsten Fox are interested in the small changes to guidelines in the recent iteration of the Child Nutrition Act, which governs school meals and provides for free and reduced-price meal programs. Congress is working on a bill to reauthorize the act, now called the Improving Child Nutrition Integrity and Access Act of 2016. If the bill becomes law, only 80 percent of the wheat products that schools serve must be mostly whole grain. It's good news for kids who like Japanese-style yakisoba noodles, for example. For all their effort in searching, Capen and Fox have not been able to locate a tasty alternative to the white-flour noodles that many students love, and would like to be able to include it on the lunch menu as an occasional entree.
Capen, who grew up in Chehalis and graduated from Central Washington University with a degree in nutrition and food service management, is thrilled to have been selected for the Battle Ground Nutrition Services position.
"It's fun to observe all that is changing in food services," he said, "and to listen to people and figure out as a district where we want to go."