Food Service Director Sara Jones said the Challis school district's new healthy lunch program benefits both students' health and the district's finances.

According to Jones, the school district receives a reimbursement from the government for every meal sold in the cafeteria via the National School Lunch Program. It is designed to entice kids and their parents to spend money on nutritious and balanced school lunches. Jones said this year's reimbursement is the highest it's been in seven years.

"We're on the upswing because more students are using the cafeteria," Jones said. The new program was instituted at the start of the school year. 

Jones tries to draw students to the cafeteria by using higher-quality items. At the October school board meeting, Jones said "it's not your old cafeteria food anymore." She said fresh vegetables at the salad bar have become one of the more sought-after meal choices. Salads are served Wednesdays and Thursdays and Jones said its not uncommon for the high school of about 160 students to go through about 20 salads per day. Jones said she has heard nothing but good feedback from the students and parents about the salad bar. Jones said the healthier meals have become so popular parents have asked for take-home meals, which she sells. 

A donation system was started this year in the food service program. People can anonymously donate money to help struggling students pay for healthy meals. The donors don't choose who receives the money. Instead, Jones takes the money and looks at lunch accounts, allocating funds to students struggling with paying for food. Jones said it took the majority of the summer to organize and set up the programs. It was worthwhile, she said, because the students are eating better and the school district is getting more money.

"We wanted to bring more kids into the cafeteria," said Jones. "This is something that had to be done."