BLOG +plus+

Lunchtime will still provide a break from classroom routine in the midst of the school day, but when kids go to the cafeteria they will still be learning; and, if Pam Gouge has anything to do about it, they'll be learning lessons that should stick with them for the rest of their lives.

Brandywine School District, along with other public school districts around the country, are in the midst of reinventing student-feeding programs in hopes of changing the eating habits of the rising generation. That effort, in turn, is part of a comprehensive approach to significantly improving wellness education.

Gouge, Brandywine's school nutrition supervisor, said the ultimate goal is to significantly reduce the incidence of childhood obesity and, along with that, reduce the risk of contracting life-threatening and life-shortening illnesses.

During the coming academic year, districts  receiving federal lunch subsidies will have to adopt and follow a wellness plan a detailed strategy for how good nutrition will be provided, promoted and taught. In

addition, nutrition standards set by the federal government for school meals are expected to become more rigorous next spring, on the heels of the revised 'food pyramid'.

Brandywine's plan will come before the school board for approval soon,

Use of these professionally-designed logos will be part of the school-lunch marketing campaign.

Gouge said. However, she added, that will not be the start of the district's effort to bring student-feeding into line with what experts say should be provided for the children.

Already, she said, "our nutrition program meets or exceeds federal regulations."

Some examples:

Only bread and rolls made with whole wheat are served. Pat's Pizza, one of the district's vendors, has agreed to use only whole-wheat dough to make the pizzas it sells to the district.

Popular chicken nuggets are made with soybean and vegetable burgers are included on the menus.

Dairy products are low-fat or no-fat and soy and rice beverages are included. Other beverages must contain at least 50% real fruit juice and no added sweeteners.

Fresh vegetables and fruit are on the menus and salads are available daily.

No more than 35% of the calories in snack food are from sugar or other sweeteners and 10% or less of total calories come from saturated fat or transfat.

No changes are planned in cafeteria offerings during the coming year, but, effective Jan. 1, vending machines elsewhere in the schools, which are not part of the student-feeing program, must meet the same snack and beverage standards.

Implementing those requirements, she said, drew surprisingly little resistance from the children. The biggest objection was to dark bread, but that gradually faded, she said. "Children want to be fed good and safe food," she said.

School lunches are popular in Brandywine. During the past academic year, just shy of 1.1 million were served. In addition, there were 309,000 breakfasts provided. On average, about half the elementary- and intermediate-school population, 70% of middle schoolers and and 68% of high school students buy lunch.

Prices for a full meal during the coming year will remain $1.50 in secondary schools and $1.25 in elementary schools.  Prices for a-la-carte items also will be unchanged.

New in the coming year, Gouge said, will be a marketing effort to increase patronage. Part of that will be an effort to substitute more trendy names for the generic cafeteria. In elementary schools it will be 'kids cafe' and in the secondary schools 'expressions cafe'.

She said her goal is a 2% increase in the number of meals sold. Besides supporting the food-service program -- which must be financially self-sufficient -- that will mean that more students are exposed to good eating.

Whether that will carry over to the children's outside-of-school lives remains to be seen. But it will not be entirely left to chance.

A significant part of the nutrition policy, she explained, will be nutrition education incorporated into the regular classroom curriculum. And there will be a formal measurement of student knowledge and behavior, including height and weight trends, to see how well the lessons are being taught and learned, she said.

Posted on August 28,  2006

2006. All rights reserved.

Return to Delaforum Newsfront

Get more information about this topic

Access Brandywine School District's lunch and breakfast menus.

What is your opinion about the topic of this article?
Click here to express your views.