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Monday, July 18, 2016

HEALTHIER CHILDREN

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Working to fulfill students’ nutritional needs

Studies show that children that eat healthier perform better in school.

Improving child nutrition is the focal point of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, federal guidelines outlined by the USDA.

“The contents of the legislation governs the nutritional value and make-up of lunches, which re quires an emphasis on fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains and limits sodium consumption,” said Mary Nash- Wood, assistant director of marketing and media services for Caddo Parish Schools. “Our schools follow those menu guidelines and all regulations.”

Beginning in the 2016-17 school year, Bossier Parish Schools Child Nutrition Program will be participating in a new option available as part of the national School Lunch and School Breakfast Program.

Shaletta Kirkendoll, supervisor for the Child Nutrition Program, Bossier Parish, said Community Eligibility Provision states all students enrolled at 15 Bossier Parish schools are eligible to receive one free healthy breakfast and lunch at no charge to their household, each day of the school year.

“The only requirement is for your child to be enrolled at one of these schools,” Kirkendoll said. “In the event your child moves to a non-participating CEP site, a Meal Benefit Application must be filled out prior to transferring.”

Participating schools include Bossier Elementary, Bossier High, Butler Educational Complex, Carrie Martin Elementary, Central Park Elementary, Elm Grove Elementary, Greenacres Middle, Kerr Elementary, Meadowview Elementary, Plain Dealing High, Plantation Park Elementary, Platt Elementary, Rusheon Middle, TL Rodes Elementary and Waller Elementary.

“Thanks to Bossier schools’ participation in this federal program, each child at these schools – regardless of household income – will be eligible,” said Sonja Bailes, public relations liaison for Bossier Parish Schools. “That is a tremendous savings to our families and will also, hopefully, encourage children to eat balanced meals in our school cafeterias.”

Wood said menu options are offered as encouragement, too.

“Our students continue to increase in consumption, particularly in the elementary level, as this has become what is expected since the act passed,” Wood said. “For our older students, it has taken more of an adjustment, but that is not only a pattern within Caddo, but nationwide.”

Ultimately, the new meals are healthier and higher quality for students, “which is of particular concern given our high percentage of students who are economically disadvantaged,” Wood said.

Currently, 67 percent of students in Caddo schools qualify for Free and Reduced Breakfast and Lunch under federal guidelines.

“With this in mind, coupled with community statistics, we are aware that for many of our students these meals provide the only nourishment a child may receive on a given day,” Wood said. “From there, we also have fantastic community partners, namely the Food Bank of Northwest Louisiana, that help in providing meals for our most needy students to take home anonymously to fill students’ nutritional needs through weekends and holidays.”

Bossier & Caddo Child Nutrition offer the following:

• All flavored milks are fat-free/skim milk.

• 100 percent dark green Romaine lettuce is used to prepare salads.

• Black-eyed peas have been added to the menus, increasing the number of times beans and peas are offered on the menus to increase fiber and nutrients.

• Foods used at Bossier Parish Schools contain 0 grams of trans fat per serving, with the exception of a small amount of naturally occurring trans fats.

• Saturated fats are limited to 10 percent or less of total calories on weekly menus

• Specific vegetable groups are offered on school menus weekly. Dark green, red/ orange, beans/peas/legumes/starchy and other vegetables are offered.

• USDA has required that students choose a minimum of 1/2 cup fruit or vegetable with their meal for the meal to be counted as reimbursable.

• Both fruits and vegetables will be offered every day on menus, which will provide more healthful choices for students and encourage them to choose fruits and vegetables with their meal.

• Some of the fresh fruits and vegetables

that are offered are: strawberries, red grapes, cantaloupe, watermelon, apples, oranges, baby carrots, and broccoli florets.

• New USDA requirements for lunch state that the average daily amounts of calories for a five-day school week must be (Pre-K to 5th grade) 550-650 calories; (Grades 6-8) 600-700 calories; and (Grades 9-12) 750-850 calories.

• Sodium in meals is reduced and must meet a particular target level.

• Whole-grain rich bread products are offered on school menus; all bread products offered are whole grain rich; hamburger and hot dog buns are 100 percent whole wheat products; other whole grain rich bread products include sliced bread, brown rice, whole wheat rolls, and whole wheat pizza.

Bossier Parish Schools are serving 20 percent of 21,279 students breakfast and 54 percent lunch. Bailes said students are continuing to eat school breakfast and lunch and are adapting to choose healthier meals.

– Bonnie Culverhouse

USDA’S recommenDAtionS for heAlthy eAting in School Are:

• Get ready for class by eating breakfast,

• Use portion control with no super-sizing,

• Eat fruits/vegetables with each meal,

• Drink milk twice a day for strong bones,

• Eat whole grain rich foods regularly, and

• Exercise daily.

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