A Fresh Approach to Eagle County school’s lunch line | VailDaily.com

A Fresh Approach to Eagle County school’s lunch line

Jennifer Alsever
VAIL CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily

Chef Douglas Dodd hates the idea of children eating fried, processed foods in their school lunchrooms. That’s why the executive chef at the Arrabelle at Vail Square immediately jumped in to help a new fundraising effort called Fresh Approach that aims to deliver healthier, fresh-cooked meals to Eagle County schools.

On Saturday, Dodd will cook dinner for 30 guests at the Arrabelle restaurant. The three-course menu is a gourmet upscale twist on lunch line fare. The dishes range from short rib sloppy joe sliders to fruit sushi and truffle kobe salisbury steak. It will include a wine reception and three-course dinner.

Dodd is one of many locals who are stepping up to help raise $350,000 to expand a new scratch-cooking program to all schools in the district, which is facing another round of budget cuts. The money will cover the costs of buying fresh produce, whole grains and better meats and hiring and training extra staff at 14 schools to prepare that food. Brush Creek Elementary in Eagle piloted the scratch cooking program this school year.

The local effort mirrors much of what’s happening nationwide, as childhood obesity and diabetes hit all-time highs and high-profile people like Jamie Oliver and Michelle Obama push for better foods in schools.

Vail Resorts is a big supporter of Fresh Approach, enlisting its chefs like Dodd at several of its restaurants to prepare dinners for the events. Private dinners also will be held throughout the summer at other restaurants, including The French Press in Edwards on June 29, Paradigms in Eagle on Aug. 11, and Vista at Arrowhead on Sept. 29.

“With mud season here and visitors gone, we’re hoping that local business owners can help kick off the first May 7 dinner by attending and inviting clients,” said Fresh Approach organizer Tara van Dernoot, who is a parent of a sixth-grader at Berry Creek Middle School. The group also needs volunteers, she said.

The healthy foods project will also get a boost from the first annual Hammer Mash Mountain Bike Event in Eagle on May 28 and 29. The $35 entry fee event includes a weekend of mountain bike rides, as well as drink tickets, T-shirts, a raffle, trail maps and two days of beer, music and entertainment at the Eagle Lodge and Suites. Twenty percent of the proceeds will be donated to Fresh Approach. More information can be found online at http://www.hammermash.com.

Eagle artist Bart Gunderson and Ralph Ciarlanti III, co-owner of the Eagle Lodge and Suites, teamed up to organize the bike event to showcase the area’s great biking trails. But when they found out the food program faced a funding crisis, they stepped in to help.

“It’s a great way to not only promote the Eagle area for mountain biking but a great way to promote a healthier lifestyle for our children,” Ciarlanti said.

Tickets for Saturday’s dinner are $75 per person, and all proceeds go to the Fresh Approach project. Tickets can be purchased and donations can be made at http://www.freshapproach.giveo.com.

Jennifer Alsever is a freelance journalist who lives in Eagle. She has two children at Brush Creek Elementary and is a volunteer with the Fresh Approach program. Email comments about this story to cschnell@vaildaily.com.