PERRYVILLE, Ark. (KTHV) — School lunches don't normally have the best reputation, but one company has made it their mission to fix that. They’re changing the image and the quality of school lunches across Arkansas. Not even a year ago, more than half of Perryville students brought their own lunch to school.
Now, after only a few months of a new lunch program, 75 percent of students are opting for school lunch.
"I used to bring my lunch now I don’t," sixth-grader Ma Hawkins said. “Now it’s good and healthy.”
Last semester, Perryville schools joined 15 other school districts across Arkansas by using K-12 Culinary Connection to give their lunch a new flavor. Justin Mills started the consulting company four years ago.
“Our company comes in with registered dietitians and chefs to make food as good as they can be," Mills said. “I was actually a cook in the Army and once I got done with my tours, I went to culinary school."
He decided what he cared about most was making a better school lunch for his daughters.
“I want them to have the quality of food they have at home," Mills said.
Schools are serving foods like whole grain pizza, steak sandwiches, orange chicken, plus a salad bar every day.
Since the school lunch change, Perryville schools have seen a 25 percent increase in students eating school lunch.
"We sold 8,700 more meals and that’s just in one semester,” Superintendent Dr. Walt Davis said.
Their meals are still only $2.75 a day, following health guidelines, while also appealing to students.
“We’ve grown by word of mouth. It’s basically superintendents telling other superintendents ‘hey this worked for us’ and that’s how we’ve grown so far," Mills said.
While K-12 culinary provides resources and help from dietitians, the schools still use their own food service workers, which was a big plus to the Perryville lunch staff.