TUCSON, Ariz. - The lunch bell rings, stomachs are growling, and nothing sounds better than...
"Country potatoes! And we used herbs and onion and garlic from local farms. We also made a beef skillet and we used a lot of kale," says professional cook, Lita Andrade.
Sounds like something you'd order off a menu at a steakhouse with a hefty price tag attached, right? Well, what if we told you that's what was being served to the bright-eyed students for lunch at Civano Community School?
"It's really fun for me because I get to use seasonal vegetables, and be creative, and do different things every single day," says Andrade.
Lita Andrade is the star of this lunch-time serenade.
"I get in at eight, and it takes me a couple hours to prep," says Andrade. "I usually start cooking by ten and I'm able to get it all out by 11:30."
And this professional cook refuses to to be basic.
"This year we're trying to go all organic. All local," says Andrade.
There are a lot of moving parts to get an operation like this off the ground, so here's how they do it:
"We are able to take our menu and go to a lot of different vendors," says Director of Assessment and Innovative Learning, Vail School District, Kelly Pinkerton. "We are able to buy meat from the U of A, our produce from a local vendor so that we have organic vegetables from right here in the state."
Not to mention, if you think about it, the whole process is kind of like eating at home!
"Regular plate, regular silverware. They come through, get their food, and it tastes really good," says Pinkerton.
And if that's not homey enough for you, here's the kicker...
"At the end, they clean their own plates," says Pinkerton. "They're kind of responsible for the clean-up of it."
Ahhh, dish duty. It's not the most glamorous part of the cooking process. So to help sweeten the pot, not to mention, get some extra help beforehand, some of the older kids are allowed to help out.
"I help out every day I can," says Civano student, Luke Johnson. "So like, three times a week."
Of course, this story is in fact all about the food, so who better to ask than those on the front lines? What's the best thing on Lita's menu?
"Pizza is the most popular. Or bagels and smoothies," says Johnson.
So there you have it! Gone are the days of the moans and groans over the dreaded-school lunch. As these students with larger-than-life palettes welcome food that is homemade, local, and maybe most-important: tasty.