CORVALLIS, Ore. - A new grant is aimed at revising school meals in the Jefferson County and Culver school districts, with the goal of offering more nutritious meals that are also accepted by students.

The $25,000 grant is part of a as part of a new research collaboration that brings together Oregon State University researchers, OSU Extension, and local county health departments. The Outreach Collaborative for a Healthy Oregon, or OCHO for short, brings together the research arm of the College of Health and Human Sciences to collaborate both with Extension agents as well as local county health departments to develop an innovative model of public health improvement, service and outreach.

According to Glenda Hyde, the grant's principal investigator and an instructor with OSU Extension Family and Community Health, community health partners in Jefferson County would like to support the school districts and nutrition services staff in developing school recipes and menus that address improving health and wellness.

"During the school year, many students eat as many as two-thirds of their meals at school," Hyde said. "Developing good habits for food selection in school will help the students develop life-long patterns for better health and wellness."

Hyde said the Jefferson County School District wants to build on previous changes to lower fat and sodium content of its lunches and will get support from the grant for recipe testing this summer. Culver School District will have recipes analyzed, revised and tested by OSU dietetics students. Both districts will get new recipes with dark green and orange vegetables, legumes or lentils developed by OSU students for school meals this fall. OSU Extension staff will provide training and support for new recipe development and testing in both school districts.

In addition, OSU Extension will help students and staff build, design, plant, and maintain gardens at sites that can be accessed by students in Madras and Warm Springs. OSU Master Gardeners will serve as consultants. Students will help harvest and sample foods to be used in the school meals and conduct classroom taste testing.

Jefferson County 4-H members in cooking clubs or leadership roles will get home-style versions of the new recipes developed by the dietetics researchers and students. The 4-H members will prepare the recipes, taste them and get advanced nutrition education training from an OSU Extension Registered Dietician.

Finally, surveys will be conducted to find out how the new school lunches are being accepted by the students.

In addition to Hyde, other leaders on the collaborative project include Jon Gandy, program coordinator for Extension 4-H in Madras, Mary Cluskey, an associate professor with OSU's Department of Nutrition and Exercise Sciences, and Tom Machala, director of the Jefferson County Health Department.

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Glenda Hyde, 541-548-6088 x7961