August 20, 2003 at 8:38 PM CDT - Updated June 23 at 11:48 AM
Healthier Lunches By: Wendy Ray
CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO --There's a good chance one or even two of the meals your child eats everyday comes from his or her school cafeteria.
You may be surprised how schools have had to adjust their menus over the last few years. With new concerns about childhood obesity and related health problems, now there's a push to make school lunches more healthy. It hasn't been tough for the kids who eat them, but it's been a big adjustment for the cafeteria workers who make the meals.
Other than recess, it's the time of day most kids can't wait for. Second grader Madeline Siefert likes lunchtime because she gets to hang out with friends and eat. But a lot of thought goes into the food students are eating. Clippard Elementary's Cafeteria Director Marilyn Mirley says, "We have at least 30 percent of fat in meal, less salt and we are working in fiber." Mirley has been the cafeteria manager at Clippard Elementary in Cape Girardeau for 21 years. She's seen a lot of changes in how the food is prepared. "We used to have butter, cook with all lard and grease, all of that has changed, the food has changed," she says. Now you'll find more turkey products, like turkey corn dogs, and other items with less fat. Lunchtime has also gone high-tech.
A menu planner on the cafeteria computer helps cafeteria directors make sure what they're serving has the right nutritional values. Every item they serve is on the computer. It shows everything that's in the food, from sodium, to calories to fat grams. With so much to keep in order, some might say it would be more complicated to offer several choices. Think again. "They have at least three choices for entrees everyday. They get vegetables and fruit with every meal," Mirley says. Six year old Tramonee Stewart is enjoying her lunch decision. "I like spaghetti," she says. "Some of them may only get one good meal a day, that's at school, so you need to make sure it's a balanced and nutritious one," Mirley says.
Students at Clippard who buy a lunch are given a milk, and those who choose to bring their own can buy one for 25 cents.