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Healthy School Lunch Choices are Being Criticized

By Lawayne Childrey | Published 28 May 2014 08:44am | comments

Schools in Mississippi and across the country have implemented new standards of nutrition since first Lady Michelle Obama began her healthier choices  initiative four years ago. MPB's Lawayne Childrey reports those changes could be in for a setback.

Over the past few years school districts across Mississippi have made significant strides towards making meals and snacks healthier. That includes reducing the intake of sodium, fats and sugars. And increasing the use of more whole grains. Regina Ducksworth is the Child Nutrition Director for Clinton Public Schools.

"The thing that we had to do in Clinton was to find things that our students like and serve those foods. Last summer we tested all the recipes with reduced fat and all the whole grain recipes that we have. The things that they did not like and did not think their peers would like we did not put that on our menu."

During a visit to Clinton Junior High School last year, First Lady Michelle Obama praised the Mississippi Department of Education's efforts for implementing healthy lunch guidelines by adding more fresh fruits and vegetables to the menu. And by eliminating fried foods on school campuses across the state.

"That means that tens of thousands of children here in Mississippi are getting the healthy start to their lives that they need. They're at lower risks for diseases like diabetes and heart disease and cancer. And they've got more of the nutrition that they need to succeed in school which is crucial for them to be able to succeed in life which is our ultimate goal for them."  

While many schools across the country have had success putting nutritional standards in place, others have said they are too restrictive and costly. Some members of Congress are even supporting a bill that would allow schools to waive the standards. Anne Foster, Executive Director with Parents for Public Schools says if the waiver is allowed to take place,  it could have huge implications for  Mississippi.

"Because Mississippi has been ranked up there at the top on obesity measures now for some time. I hope that's getting better but it has to start with children and  that's who we're concerned about."

Mississippi has seen a reduction in its childhood obesity rates. However,  it still remains the fattest state in the country. Lawayne Childrey, MPB News. 

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