Photo courtesy of Brian Hurlbut

A force for healthy food


Big Sky School District Food Service Manager Lindsie Hurlbut is aware of the staggering child and adolescent obesity statistics in America. By 2050, the number of children and adolescents with Type 2 diabetes will likely quadruple, according to Pew Research and currently one in six children is obese in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

“I feel like kids deserve to eat well. And the sooner and the more we can teach our chil- dren about good habits, good eating and a healthy lifestyle the better,” she said.

She sees her work as a vital community need and research suggests she is correct. Kids eat the bulk of their daily calories at school, making healthy options increasingly important.

Hurlbut does not take her job lightly – in fact she is absolutely passionate about creating healthy options for Big Sky kids and encouraging healthy lifelong habits. Every Friday is soup and salad day, with a salad bar of locally/state sourced produce thanks to a grant from Moonlight Community Foundation. Supporting family farms in an agricultural state and decreasing the carbon footprint are things she values – she is grateful for the annual grant.

“[Friday] is my favorite day. Soup is definitely my favorite thing to make. It’s so fun, you can just really look at what you have on hand,” she said. “We also have to run on a pretty tight budget here so it helps to be able to use different things you get from the government and still make it delicious.”

Hurlbut is a third generation Montanan, born and raised in Hamilton. She spent a good deal of time on her grandparents’ farm and in the kitchen with her mother – who loved to cook and viewed creating unique dishes as an adventure. That connection to the land and fond childhood memories planted a love for whole foods and scratch cooking. The over processed meals of this modern era give her pause.

So, when she stepped into the food service director position, with her degree in nutrition, she had already cooked for large scale operations, been a private chef and even started a restaurant.

Hurlbut completely transformed the program, a move that would have been impossible without the amazing ladies who helped her, she said.

“I think, too, we just kind of came in with a positive attitude and tried to change the perception of what school lunch is. I think it is working, the kids seem happy. A lot more kids get hot lunch now than they did,” she said. “I’m just lucky to have great people working with me and to have a really positive environment.”

The ladies in the lunch room are also wonderful at convincing the kids to try “just a little” of healthy foods they are unconvinced they will like. Those same kids often return for more.

Hurlbut gets to embrace the culinary adventures long established in her life. She even works with social studies teacher Mr. Tony Coppola when he does a variety of lessons on different countries.

“We will do a menu related to what they are learning in school. We just had an Indian day, we will have a Vietnamese day, a Cuban day – buffet style of just really unique food options,” she said.

It is the cheapest lunch in town, too, she said – only $4.10 per adult.

As the district transitions to online learning in light of the Coronavirus pandemic, board chair Loren Bough said he would find private funding to allow for the district to continue to provide school lunches – for free – to Big Sky kids and make those lunches available to the greater community. Hurlbut is currently figuring-out how best to do that.

“I’m going to work with Sarah at the food bank, because she is so awesome and dialed. I’ve had a ton of people ask, “How can I help?’ We will keep the [school lunches] going as long as they are needed,” she said.

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