Longtime local Lindsie Feldner brings healthy, sustainable, and delicious food options to Ophir and Lone Peak High School—students love them
Written by Julia Barton digital product
BIG SKY — Lindsie Feldner, director of food services for Big Sky School District, was surprised in the lunchroom on October 10 by the John Morrison and Cathy Wright Children’s Health Awards in Montana.
Feldner was among eight nominees for the award, which serves to honor a Montana teacher for innovative strategies that increase student health.
“I am so grateful that it was such a recognized lunch program,” Feldner said. “I hope it will be useful to other lunch programs out there and they see the work they do is valuable.”
During her five-year tenure, Feldner has worked hard to emphasize whole food cooking practices and source produce from within the state. She explained that locally sourced, home-made food is not only more nutritious, but also tastes better.
The numbers indicate that Big Sky students agree. When Feldner started the program, nearly 20% of students purchased cafeteria lunches. Now, 80%.
“It is great that everyone is being recognized for the hard work they do, regardless of their position in our school,” said Dustin Shipman, BSSD Supervisor. “It does so much, its effects have been great.”
Feldner was nominated for the award last year by BSSD colleagues Dr. Kate Eisele and Vanessa Wilson, and she said that time had passed since her nomination that she assumed the award had already been given to someone else. When I got the award, I was honored and surprised.
The students’ lunch favorites include pesto pasta, grilled chicken gyros, and Thai Buddha bowls. Feldner makes foods of various worldly origins and has gained enough confidence with her lunches that students are open to expanding their plates. Part of this process comes from engaging students at every level of food production, from thinking recipes and helping with cooking, to serving their peers and preparing dishes.
“This is their program,” Feldner said of the students. “Essentially, it’s only successful if they eat it.”
Student lunch assistants get free lunch, which allowed more children to try Feldner’s meals and eventually encouraged them to keep coming back, contributing to the steady growth of the program.
The success of the program goes beyond the food served on the lunch tray. By making more food from scratch and using locally sourced ingredients, Feldner reduced packaging waste, carbon emissions from food transportation, and overall food costs. The program also uses composting for the sustainable disposal of waste.
The budget for lunches is tight because the school receives little funding from the USDA to support lunch costs, Feldner explained. As such, Feldner’s efforts to obtain grants from local organizations were a serious factor in the program’s success.
Feldner holds a degree in Nutrition and brings experiences from a long history of food service at Big Sky to BSSD Cafeteria. She started the locally famous Wrap Shack and ran the restaurant for seven years before it was sold, worked as a private chef, ran a commercial kitchen and provided catering services.
“I think cooking is a kind of lost art and I’m trying to get it back,” Feldner said. “It is something every student should take with them into the big world. It will help them live more economically and have the skills to cook for themselves. In many ways it will benefit them in their future.”
The program that will return this year after a hiatus during COVID-19 is Family Cooking Night, where Feldner invites students and their families into the kitchen to learn to prepare meals with the freshest seasonal ingredients.
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