Healthy Students: Jennifer Montague takes lead in offering better meals for students
October 08, 2012
By DAVE REESE
Montana Health Journal
It’s 10 a.m. on a Tuesday, and Mary Brown is busy in the kitchen at Glacier High School. As another cook prepares a batch of hummus in a large mixer, there’s a buzz in the kitchen that hasn’t been there in a while. That’s because the kind of food they’re serving here is fresh and healthy — and the high school students are loving it.
So are the cooks.
“The kids are really excited,” Brown said. “They’re going for the fresher choices. It’s fun to cook here this year, because there are so many new and exciting things we’re putting out.”
The main reason there is so much excitement around the kitchen in Glacier High School — and other schools around Kalispell — is a healthier direction in school lunches brought about by Jennifer Montague. Montague arrived at School District Five in Kalispell in summer 2011 and immediately began the task of rebuilding the school district’s hot lunch program. With a degree in sustainable food systems, Montague is working hard to provide students and staff with healthier food choices. That’s a big task. The district has 5,600 students and serves 4,400 meals a day at the elementary schools alone.
“I was hired to be an advocate for nutrition for students,” Montague said. “There are challenges but a lot of opportunities. The climate here is ripe for change for healthier food. I feel really lucky to be in this position right now because there is so much support, and the kids are really ready for a change.”
Montague has a diverse background in food and nutrition, from working at a weight loss clinic in France, to the Good Food Store in Missoula. She also put in time at the Center for Disease Control in Bozeman on a project to reduce childhood obesity. “I’m very passionate about food,” she said.
For elementary school lunches Kalispell’s school district uses a central kitchen that prepares food ahead of time, and delivers it to the schools. That poses a challenge for Montague, because it’s difficult to serve hot food that’s fresh after it’s been sitting in a holding oven for three or four hours. Nonetheless, School District Five is finding ways of getting healthier food on the plates of students.