Lee’s Summit entrée leads competition for best school sandwich
LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo. (KCTV) - A school lunch item in Lee’s Summit that’s a hit with students and staff is gaining some national notoriety in an online contest.
The district’s “Surf Side Tuna Sandwich” currently leads the Spectacular Sandwich Throwdown, an online competition that collects donations for school lunch debt.
The sandwich is tuna, avocado, bacon and cheese on a flatbread. Keith Wilhelm, a member of Lee’s Summit North’s school lunch crew, created it to highlight the fresh produce the district has been using from its farm-to-table program.
“I like to be creative so the kids get a nice, nutritious meal,” Wilhelm said.
The district has been increasingly using fresh ingredients and making meals from scratch. Lori Danella, the director of the district’s Nutrition Services Department, said it has been buying produce from the KC Food Hub. That is a network of farmers within 125 miles of the city.
“They’re our customers, so we’ve been trying to give them great product,” she said.
The contest is hosted by School Nutrition Industry Professionals, or SNIP, an advocacy group that encourages districts to incorporate local foods and homemade items into their meal programs.
The contest also collects donations for school lunch debt, which is increasingly a burden for families following the pandemic. In June, the federal government stopped funding universal meals.
“Parents had to start paying again if they didn’t qualify for free and reduced lunch,” Danella explained.
Becki Swan, who works with SNIP, said that the 23 districts involved in the contest had approximately $800,000 in combined lunch debt. Lee’s Summit alone had around $55,000.
“We’ve accumulated all this debt by providing meals to families that can’t pay or don’t know they have to pay,” Swan said.
The Lee’s Summit sandwich currently leads the online voting. Every school that entered a sandwich will get a portion of the donations collected relative to the votes they received.
“The money they raise from that sandwich will go to the kids,” Wilhelm said. “That’s what excites me a lot.”
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