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School lunches: Thumbs up for Baton Rouge chef's menu

Feeding kids in Baton Rouge can be cheap and educational, preaches chef Lauren Guy. Fusing Louisiana flavor with nutritional verve, Career Academy's lunch menu is a welcome example of newly reformed meals getting positive student marks.

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School lunches that get back to simple and basic ingredients is what Chef Lauren advocates.

The Christian Science Monitor/Alfredo Sosa

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Chef's jackets are not the first thing you would expect to see in a school cafeteria. Especially not in a charter school with a 94 percent free or reduced lunch rate.

But chef Lauren Guy is not your average lunch lady. And this is not your average cafeteria. It's in the Career Academy, a Louisiana Resource Center for Educators-run charter high school in north Baton Rouge.

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"Our mission this year is to get vegetables in their purest form and fruits in their purest form, to show them you can do this on a budget," Guy said. "Because clearly we are."

That means taking pains to serve fresh produce at every meal, like fruit cups and orange wedges for breakfast and scoops of grapes with lunch. She's also kept the Louisiana flavor, but made it healthier.

"We started out the year with red beans, because we want to give them good Louisiana food and show them it could be made the healthy way," she said.

She also chooses a lot of foods the students may not get a chance to try at home, like Chinese barbecued pork.

"I want them to learn to eat real, adult food," Guy said.

The up to 200 students she serves a day seem to appreciate the efforts.

Katoria Augustus, 17, loved the seedless green grapes she was served recently with a turkey burger and baked fries.

"Keep your hands off my grapes," she said, as a tablemate reached for her tray. "I love the grapes, and the fries."

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