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Fueling up for school

By Kaite Smith, WestLinn Tidings

Appeared in print: Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012, page A1

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As the days grow shorter and summer begins its slow fade into fall, countless primary, middle and hig h school students are beginning to dread the return of the academic year.

For parents, the return of fall also indicates the transition from picnic lunches to lunchboxes. Though they can’t keep Oregon’s chilly fall weather away, West Linn’s local Market of Choice employees are already looking toward the fall, stocking shelves with new products designed to make school lunches nutritious, sustainable and affordable.

Whether you’re packing sandwiches or snacks, the bulk foods section is a good place to start.

“I love the bulk stuff for kids because they can be picky eaters. They can try it without a full commitment, which makes the price lower,” noted Bulk Foods Manager Anne Marie Bracco.

Bracco’s favorite bulk product for fall is a lunchtime staple — trail mix. To make this delectable assortment more affordable, Bracco suggests buying by the case, which are priced at 10 percent off the normal bulk price.

“A case is 10 to 14 pounds, which isn’t too much to store,” Bracco said.

A nutritional standout in bulk foods is the assorted dried fruit, of which Market of Choice offers between 20 and 25 different types. Whether you choose to mix it in with morning oatmeal or pack it as a lunchtime snack, dried fruit offers a punch of flavor with relatively few calories.

Though whether an apple a day actually keeps the doctor away is up for debate, local apples from Washington are assuredly a noontime standard. Produce Manager Jerimy Morse recommends them as a standout local product, in both conventional and organic varieties.

“By the time school comes back we’ll be getting into oranges,” said Morse. “But, apples are really the biggest (local item).”

Market of Choice doesn’t only sell whole oranges — located smack in the middle of the produce section is a fresh orange juice machine, from which customers can buy 16-, 32- and 64-ounce containers. Squeezed daily, a glass of this juice is sure to start your day off right.

Morse also recommends kiwis as a convenient lunch item. “They’re very sweet, tasty and they peel easily. They also fit well in lunchboxes.”

Whole Health Manager Kelly Rogers, in charge of “basically anything you can’t eat,” according to store Manager Gregg Kruse, is featuring three different types of storage products to help shield food from backpack bruising.

At the front of the pack is Lunch Bots aluminum storage containers, which Market of Choice offers in many different colors and sizes. Bracco seconded Rogers’ recommendation, “They’re easier for parents, so they can rinse them out and use them again.”

Also featured is a lunchbox from Lunchopolis, which includes with a water bottle and four tinted plastic containers designed to fit snugly inside the insulated container.

If plastic or aluminum containers aren’t your style, Rogers’ final recommendation of Wrap-N-Mat reusable, BPA-free mats to wrap sandwiches is a perfect alternative. Though they don’t protect food from bruising, the brightly colored wraps are a sustainable substitute for plastic wrap.

Whether you’re planning ahead for the week or grabbing a pre-made sandwich before the school day begins, Chef Scott Chandler of Market of Choice’s deli department has recommendations for students of any age.

With approximately 20 different types of meat available daily for deli slicing, Chandler and his coworkers are lunchtime pros. Recommended for both sandwiches and rollups are Diestel meat products.

“They’re all natural, have no hormones and are naturally prepared. They’re fabulous for kids’ lunches,” Chandler said.

For high schoolers who have off-campus lunch as an option, Market of Choice offers a myriad of hot lunch options. With a daily burrito bar and panini sandwiches available, there’s no shortage of options for the 50 to 60 high schoolers that frequent the market daily.

For students with special dietary needs, such as gluten intolerance or sensitivity, Market of Choice offers a wide variety of options for all meals of the day, lunch included.

Kruse is stocking up on kid-friendly gluten-free items as fall approaches, featuring EnviroKidz cereal. With a variety of flavors such as Peanut Butter Panda Puffs and Amazon Frosted Flakes, these cereals are sure to satisfy.

The market’s gluten-free selection certainly doesn’t stop at breakfast. With sandwiches at the forefront of most lunches, Market of Choice’s vast frozen gluten-free bread selections offers choices for even the pickiest eaters.

“Because of the shelf life, we couldn’t offer this large of a selection without a freezer,” Kruse said. “One of the main points of our company is that we want to bring in what the customer wants. That’s why we have organic and natural products, and now people are asking for gluten-free.”

With such a wide selection of bulk foods, fruit, produce and protein, parents of academic all-stars at any age will be sure to find foods that satisfy. Though they can’t make tests easier or the school day start later, Market of Choice is fully prepared to fuel West Linn’s brightest young minds all year long.

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