When Dina Lombardi first sent her daughter to school, she was appalled at the popsicles, cookies and cups of juice her daughter was served for snacks. The Sag Harbor mother learned that most of the schools in the area don’t have kitchens, so parents routinely scramble to get healthy lunches for their kids every day.
“Every step of the way, there was a food issue,” Lombardi recalls. “In preschool, it was the biggest fight I had. I’d just plead with them not to feed her. Everywhere I turned, nobody had a real nutritional system implemented.” That’s when Lombardi (at left), who has cooked in East End restaurant kitchens for 12 years, realized her true calling: getting the healthiest of food into the smallest of bodies.
Last January she launched the Green Lunch and, every day, makes fresh lunches to be delivered to kids at school in Sag Harbor and Bridgehampton. “I design it to run just like a lunch program in school, but I don’t have the same kind of budget, so I can spend as much as I want.”
Lombardi creates a menu for each week and posts it online (thegreenlunch.com). Parents can choose to have lunches delivered Monday, Wednesday and Friday for $36 or all five days for $45.
Each day, kids get two choices. “I cook food kids love, like corn dogs and pasta, and I use whole foods and sneak in nutrition. The corn dog is an uncured organic hot dog wrapped in sprouted corn meal and flax seeds. I bake muffins with spinach puree. I sneak beets or squash into sweets.” Along with their main dish, kids get a fresh fruit and a sweet, like a banana muffin or a macaroon.
“I picture my daughter, a picky eater, and think about what she would eat.” For example, Lombardi’s toasted ravioli consists of all-natural wonton strips stuffed with spinach and ricotta, dusted with Parmesan and flax and served with an organic tomato dipping sauce. “Everything is made fresh daily and kids get things hot,” she says. “The menu is designed to travel.”
After Lombardi gets her own daughter off to school in the morning, she starts cooking in one of a few different commercial kitchens around Sag Harbor. When the food is ready, she delivers it to the door of the schools, where it is then parceled out to the students. They don’t ever see Lombardi, and she doesn’t see them.
But she cherishes the feedback she gets from parents, who e-mail her about how their kid adored her hormone-free turkey meat loaf or the turmeric-rubbed chicken with grapes. “I can feel good about that,” she says, “knowing I got an elementary school kid to love meat loaf.”