Celebrity servers whet appetite for school meals
BLOOMINGTON, Mar 19, 2013 (The Pantagraph - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Hockey players served breakfast at Bloomington Junior High School students while the Cat in the Hat whirled through Irving Elementary School's cafeteria as students ate green eggs and ham.
It was all part of a plan to encourage healthy eating. On other days, whole grain bread, low fat milk, vegetables and fruit speak for themselves as part of new federal nutrition standards.
Irving fourth-grader Aakiah Sylvester likes eating breakfast and lunch at school and is among about 200 students who eat breakfast there every day.
"This is my favorite," she said of the green eggs and ham.
District 87 food services director Julie McCoy said some managers worried kids wouldn't like the healthy choices or would bring something less-healthy from home, but that hasn't been the case.
The new menu offers leaner proteins, more fruit and low fat or skim milk. Certain foods, like bagels, are smaller, so they meet lower calorie counts.
McCoy said students' food intake hasn't decreased and, in fact, actually increased in some areas.
"We have to be a role model to set an example for kids" every day, she said, not just during a national healthy-food promotion in March.
Still, the push brought celebrity servers -- police, firefighters and Bloomington Blaze players -- mixed with daily nutrition awareness.
The federal requirements call not only for more vegetables, but for specific numbers of different types of vegetables: dark green, for example, or a type of bean.
"We do a lot of taste testing and let the students be part of it" when items are introduced, McCoy said.
"They are pretty interested in trying vegetables," agreed Irving food manager Lucy Abbott.
Abbott said the new rules have been "no problem."
"A lot of it is Mrs. Obama," she said, with students taking to heart the First Lady's encouragement to eat healthy foods and exercise.
At Irving, Abbott promotes "clean your tray," which encourages students to eat an entire serving of fruit or vegetables. Those with a "lucky tray" win pencils, books and stuffed toys.
Brightly colored stars, which list students' breakfast foods, hang from the ceiling.
At the junior high, sixth-grader Dylan Fosdick got an apple with his breakfast -- along with an autograph from Blaze defenseman Aaron Dawson, Peoria.
At 61/2 feet and 220 pounds, it's likely he ate his vegetables.
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