Kewanee school district makes lunch a work of art

The head cook at the Kewanee School District is enticing students to eat a healthy in a clever way.

KEWANEE, Illinois – You may not think of a school lunch program being a work of art, but that’s because you haven’t seen what’s being served to Kewanee students every day.

When you think of high school lunches you think of pizza, chicken tenders, and burgers.  At Kewanee High School they still have that good stuff, but it’s what they add on the side and the way they are presenting it that making student lunches count.

“It catches the kid’s eyes,” says Kewanee School District Head Cook, Trisha Behnke.

She, along with her staff, put fruits and vegetables in rainbow rows, which is a lesson Behnke learned from the head cook before her years ago. That cook is is now the head chef at Wethersfield High School in Kewanee.

“She taught us to do it color coated like not putting greens together, separating it with the reds and purples, and blues so it’s like a rainbow of colors,” explains Behnke. “I think that’s what caught the attention of the picture I submitted.”

One of Behnke’s co-workers submitted a photo of Behnke’s colorful displays to a food beauty contest on Facebook through “TIPS for School Meals that Rock”.  The photo didn’t win, but Behnke’s art is still catching eyes.

“It’s more appetizing that way when it looks beautiful, I mean I want to go eat it myself – it’s gorgeous,” exclaims LeeAnn Carman, a member of the Kewanee High School kitchen staff.

The produce is fueling students, who appreciate the produce, and eat it – down to the last bite.

“Display alone has a lot to do with what you are going to choose I suppose,” says a member of the Kewanee High School staff.

“Kids will come through and like you said, they’ll eat radishes, and they’ll try yellow squash and zucchini,” comments Behnke.

Kewanee High School serves about 400 students every day.  There are 8 schools in the district, two have a full spread of produce, and five have a small array.

The district gets half of its produce for free through a program with the US Department of Agriculture.

This is Behnke's first year as the school district's Head Cook.