Six Gordon County elementary schools are tackling this problem and school food service staff knows it begins in the lunchroom.
On Tuesday, Belwood Elementary, Fairmount Elementary, Red Bud Elementary, Sonoraville Elementary, Tolbert Elementary and W.L. Swain Elementary were all awarded the bronze award for the Healthier School Challenge award from the USDA.
Donald Arnette, the regional southeast administrator for food and nutrition services of the USDA, presented the principals and cafeteria manager of each school with a plaque at Red Bud Elementary School on Oct. 12.
“I am pleased to recognize these six schools for this achievement,” Arnette said. “A healthier US school award is one of the highest honors a school nutrition program can achieve.”
Gordon County Schools qualified for the award by serving up healthy foods based on the USDA’s five food groups. The students must put items from at least food groups on their trays.
Before the awards were presented, Red Bud Elementary students performed a song and dance for guests in the school’s library about the food pyramid and the foods they need to eat.
Angela Brown, county school nutrition director for Gordon County schools, hopes the lunch meals, combined with classroom education will set kids up for a healthy lifestyle.
“We believe in serving school children quality meals,” Brown said. “With the support of the administrators, teachers, cafeteria managers and staff, physical education specialists, counselors and parent volunteers and all other team players, these schools exemplify teaching healthy lifestyles.”
With so many Americans fighting weight issues, Arnette said the award is a key component of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign — a campaign to end childhood obesity.
The six Gordon County elementary schools are among 854 schools nationwide and 10 statewide to receive the Healthier School Challenge award from the USDA, officials stated.
The schools were recognized during National School Lunch Week. The goal of NSL week is for every school lunch program is to serve a nutritionally adequate, attractive lunch at a price a child could afford to pay.
Fighting bad eating habits in the lunchroom
Jeanette Northrup, cafeteria manager of Red Bud Elementary, said the schools make the more expensive healthy food options affordable by placing large orders on fresh fruits and veggies.
“As a parent and a mom, it’s expensive to buy fresh fruits. I’m glad our system is spending money on fresh food. We can give them different types of fruit at school that they may not be eating at home,” Northrup said.
Some of the fruits include: kiwis, pomegranates, mangoes, plums and mixed fruit cups.
Northrup said many of the students at Red Bud gravitate to the mangoes and plums, but have liked all of the fruits they have tried.
At Fairmount Elementary, cafeteria manager Judy Keene said the lunch ladies encourage students to eat their vegetables by making raw veggies more appetizing to the taste buds.
“Kids will eat fresh veggies and love dipping them in the ranch dressing,” Keene said.
Another strategy is making sure cooked veggies aren’t soggy and full of excess water.
“When the veggies are cooked, the kids will know. You can’t overcook them,” she added.
Vicki Orfield, cafeteria manager at Belwood Elementary, said the healthier school challenge is something the lunch staff is mindful everyday.
“It’s an honor to receive this award. It takes a lot of work and a lot of time is spent on the children and food,” Or-field said.