Carrots in big tussle against corn dogs for student loyalty

Posted: Wednesday, May 19, 2004

You can bring a teenager to carrot sticks but you can't make him eat.

Mac's Cache, the food service at Juneau-Douglas High School, unveiled some healthy options at an open house Tuesday after school. The challenge will be educating students to pick vegetables over corn dogs, teachers said.

The school kitchen - run by a professional chef, baker and business students - now offers homemade soups, bread sticks and stir fry, said Kevin Hamrick, a business teacher who oversees Mac's Cache.

Next school year, the food service will offer small bags of vegetables free to students who buy at least $3 worth of a la carte items, or at low cost to others, he said. And there will be more varieties of sandwiches, he said.

"I would seriously welcome that. I'm a vegetarian," said Ashli Anderson, a junior who happened upon the open house. "It's so hard to find healthy food at this school."

But Mac's Cache, named after Mac, the school's stuffed bear mascot, will continue to offer pizza, hot dogs, pretzels and corn dogs to its roughly 350 daily customers, Hamrick said.

He calls the menu "healthy options."

"As long as I'm in charge it's going to be healthy options," he said. "Because to tell you the truth, healthy foods don't sell."

Mac's Cache sells about 150 pretzels with cheese a day, as well as 30 corn dogs, 40 pieces of pizza and 80 helpings of stir fry. But only six to 10 students a day buy a salad.

"I don't want to force them," Hamrick said of healthy foods. "You can't force them to eat healthy. You have to teach them, educate them and hope they make the right decisions," he said.

"You have to balance that - between extremely healthy food and food that students will buy," agreed Stephen Bishop, a junior.

Cynthia Shaw, teacher of chef and gourmet classes at JDHS, wants Mac's Cache to offer only healthy foods. She calls it "healthy choices."

If eating healthy foods isn't modeled at home, "it's the responsibility of schools to model it for the community," she said.

She cites statistics showing an increase in obesity and a type of diabetes among youths. At Tuesday's open house, she manned a table that held empty containers of soda and juices - empty except for one- and two-inch-high piles of sugar representing the sugar content in the drink.

Mac's Cache has sold about $76,000 of food so far this school year, Hamrick said. Proceeds from the sale of breakfast food, such as muffins and cereal, go to the school organizations that sell the food. Proceeds from concessions during sports games go to sports.

If Mac's Cache sold only healthy food, it might not make enough money to break even, she said. Students at the open campus would leave school at lunch to buy unhealthy food, and some students who leave for lunch don't return for classes, Morse said.

Hamrick said he did cave in and remove from the menu Frito pies - chili and cheese on Fritos. But now there's a black market for Frito pies on Friday, when Mac's Cache serves chili. Students bring their own Fritos.

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