Moffat County school lunches get a nutrition boost | CraigDailyPress.com

Moffat County school lunches get a nutrition boost

Freshman Brooklyn Hickey and subsitute teacher Joanne Roberson choose salad for lunch Friday at Moffat County High School. Hickey said she often prefers the salad bar to other hot food options, and also frequently takes advantage of the fresh fruit and greek yogurt offerings.

— Long gone are the days of potato chips, ice cream and soda in school lunch rooms.

Healthier school lunches have been a topic of national conversation during National Nutrition Month, and Moffat County School District is taking big steps to bring its own menus to the next level.

The district recently signed on to work with LiveWell Colorado to help Craig schools add more scratch cooking to their menus and improve nutrition.

"A lot of our entrees are frozen or processed foods," said Judy Baker, director of food services for MCSD. "We're going to get a lot of help getting where we want to be. My biggest thing is I want to get our sodium where it needs to be."

Congress passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act in 2010 mandating new standards for schools participating in the National School Lunch program, including reduced sodium requirements.

Other changes included providing more fresh fruits and vegetables, switching to whole grains and whole wheat products, keeping total fat content at 30 percent and saturated fat at 10 percent of overall calories.

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In Moffat County, beverage guidelines led to sugary sodas being pulled from the shelves, and potato chips and ice cream disappearing from school cafeterias.

"Ninety-three percent of America's schools are now working within the new school nutrition guidelines," United States Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said on a media call Wednesday. "With one third of children being obese and 15.8 million being food insecure, now is not the time to take a step back."

USDA efforts nationwide include expanding summer and weekend feeding programs, farm to school programs, improving child nutrition in poor, rural counties and providing financial assistance to help schools prepare healthier meals.

MCSD already provides summer feeding programs with support from HungerFree Colorado at the Craig Boys and Girls Club and Sandrock Elementary School. Anyone under the age of 18 can walk in Monday through Friday during summer break and enjoy a free lunch, no forms required.

Other local nutritional successes include a salad bar at Moffat County High School and another at Craig Middle School, added this year.

"It is amazing to watch the kids build their salads," Baker said. "They put a lot of effort into it and there's very little waste… so it's been really successful."

With help from LiveWell, Baker said they will look at putting salad bars into the elementary schools as well. Getting young kids to eat their vegetables is a universal challenge, but LiveWell will even teach food services staff how to market to kids to try healthier foods.

"Learning doesn't stop when kids enter the cafeteria and what we're trying to teach them is healthy habits for the rest of their lives," said Venita Currie, program director for the LiveWell@School Food Initiative.

LiveWell will also offer support in everything from improving culinary skills, recipes and menu design to maintaining a healthy budget and learning leadership skills to promote change in the district. The partnership will continue through the next year

Three chefs have already made the rounds through all six schools in the MCSD, and LiveWell representatives will come to Craig April 10 to hold the first training for food service staff. Meeker School District food service staff will also join in the training.

"Meeker and Moffat are the first in the region to become a part of this program," Currie said. "I'm really thrilled that Moffat is joining in this statewide effort where leaders like Judy are willing to make healthier choices for their kids."

Contact Lauren Blair at 970-875-1794 or lblair@CraigDailyPress.com.

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