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School lunch meets cultural cuisine: Federal Way samples Brazilian and Hawaiian eats

Students (left to right) Makana Galietes, Connor Thompson, Maria Colts and Maxwell Weir enjoy a special lunch for being Students of the Month at Totem Middle School. - Kyra Low/The Mirror
Students (left to right) Makana Galietes, Connor Thompson, Maria Colts and Maxwell Weir enjoy a special lunch for being Students of the Month at Totem Middle School.
— image credit: Kyra Low/The Mirror

School cafeteria lunches typically invoke images of square pizzas, mashed potatoes with green-gray gravy, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with carrots.

But sometimes that lunch can be more.

In Federal Way schools, there is a cultural cuisine program, one that can bring any world cuisine right to the students' plates.

Teachers or staff can request a custom-made meal at least one week in advance for a classroom or more of students. The meal is sent family style, and students don't have to pay anything extra, just the cost of a regular purchased lunch.

Meals must follow the USDA guidelines for child nutrition, offering two bread servings, a 2-ounce serving of meat, three-fourths of a cup of fruit and vegetables, and a milk.

Some of the popular choices include Brazilian: Chicken and rice, peas and carrots, tropical fruit salad, coconut pudding and milk. Or there is the option of Hawaiian: Waikiki meatballs, rice, tropical fruit salad, broccoli and sesame seeds, icey and milk. There's Medieval, with stew, loaves of bread, butter, salad, apples, snickerdoodle cookies and milk.

Or the meal can become a piece of art.

There's a "Teddy Bear Lunch," which includes a teddy bear-shaped pizza, fruited Jell-O with gummy bears, tossed salad with honey mustard dressing, Teddy Grahams and milk. An "Ocean Lunch" includes Sea Creatures (fish-shaped fish sticks), tartar sauce, tossed salad with ranch dressing, fruit, blue Jell-O with gummy fish and milk. Or the "Whale Lunch" where kids can turn their baked potato into a whale using cheese slices as flippers and flukes, sliced olives as eyes and blowhole, small pieces of broccoli as the spouts of air, along with butter, sour cream, taco meat, iceburg lettuce with ranch dressing, fruit, ice cream and milk.

For students at Totem Middle School, the program has been used as an award for students who have been named student of the month.

Each month, the students selected gather for the Italian lunch: Spaghetti with meat sauce, tossed salad with Italian dressing, garlic bread, fruit, cookies and milk or a soda.

Students gather at a table, getting a chance to meet other students they may not have already known, and sit with a teacher or two in the relative quiet of the library — rather than the crowded and loud cafeteria.

"It's just been wonderful," Totem Principal Christine Baker said. "The kids love it."

The food is better, the kids agree.

"I like the spaghetti," sixth-grader Maxwell Weir said. "The cookies here are better."

"The food's awesome," sixth-grader Connor Thompson said.

For more information on the program, contact Mary Asplund, Director of Nutrition Services, at (253) 945-5557.

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