Board reviews child nutrition program

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 26, 2006

Shelby County Schools have completed a year of meeting Child Nutrition Program requirements mandated by the state Department of Education.

And Maureen Alexander, Child Nutrition Program Coordinator for Shelby County Schools said she considers the past school year a success.

This coming year, 2006-2007, the program will begin meeting federal law concerning wellness of children, which includes goals for nutrition education, physical activity and other school-based activities designed to promote student wellness in a manner that the local agency determines is appropriate.

In keeping with those requirements, the Shelby County Board of Education recently recognized the food and nutrition services authority for the school district and approved a policy which states.&8221; Through the Local School Health Councils, the school system will engage students, parents, teachers, food service professionals, health professionals and other interested community members in developing, implementing, monitoring and reviewing district-wide nutrition and physical activity policies.&8221;

But how did school kids respond to healthier restricted school lunch offerings this past year?

Serving sizes of fried vegetables were reduced to thee ounces.

Power drink offerings were reduced from 20 to 12 ounces.

A la carte offerings such as snack cakes were eliminated.

Baked goods were reduced to one three-ounce cookie, and baked chips were reduced one ounce.

Vending machines offered fruit juice and trail mix and excluded items in which sugar was the first ingredient.

Teachers were instructed to replace reward party items with items of more nutrition value.

Milk offerings were limited to eight ounces and 1 percent milk.

Popsicles and ice cream were reduced to four-ounce servings.

Alexander said the goal was to get the children to purchase a complete meal. And she said 75 percent of all school children ate a meal.

But student were also allowed to bring their own sack meals from home. As Alexander stressed, &8220;We&8217;re not the food police.&8221;

According to Alexander, however, the driving force behind the successful change in school diet was &8220;education.&8221;

&8220;When you see them (children) dive into sweet potatoes, a lot of fresh fruit… (Without the snack cakes available) … we see children choosing a balanced meal.&8221;

Alexander also said the level of cooperation in Shelby County schools from the superintendent on down has been wonderful.

She said the year started with 73 percent of students eating a meal. But by April, it was up to 75 percent. And she said that came about despite an increase in enrollment by 1,300 students.

Alexander acknowledged that Shelby County Schools have been so positive that that other schools systems are calling.

&8220;We think it has been a great success,&8221; she said.

&8220;This was a huge initiative… we made huge strides.

Alexander said parents&8217; biggest concern was that children would be hungry after school.

While she said school meals have always averaged 860 calories, she said students who needed additional intake for sports and other activities could buy extra salad, fruit, or sandwiches