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Mississippi Kids To Get Healthier School Lunches

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 14 Dec 2010 07:54am | comments
Photo from the Casey Elementary Website.

The food Mississippi kids eat at their school is about to take a healthy turn...this changes follows a sweeping reform signed into law by president Obama. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports that the new rules set up national standards for what lunch rooms can serve and also expands the free and reduced lunch program.

The reforms come at a time when Mississippi is dealing with a severe health crisis...roughly 40-percent of all Mississippi kids and teens are overweight or obese, and the state's diabetes rate has nearly doubled in the last ten years.

In the crowded lunch room of Casey Elementary school in Jackson, principal Leslie Coleman explains that she has seen a big change in how schools feed the children.

"Trying to cut calories, cut fat and cut sugar where they can but still make it taste good and be appealing for the children," Coleman said.

In Coleman's school, 60-percent of her students are on free or reduced lunches. Across the state, nearly three-quarters of all students are eligible for the program.

Corn dogs, green beans and fresh fruit were just some of the lunch items on the children's trays.

Yumetrice Fulton has spent more than a decade behind the lunch counter at Casey, and says she is proud of the effort to teach the children about healthy eating.

"Its important for us to start on some level. We don't know what happens once they go home. But if we start here, then we know we are doing the very best that we can to serve them nutritious meals, and we are doing our part," Fulton said.

One goal of the program is to reduce the rate of obesity in children. State health officer Dr. Mary Currier is pleased that the healthy kids act is sending more money for smart lunches, but argues it will take a lot more to really drop the obesity rate.

"Well, I think that we are going to have to do a lot of things to change the direction of obesity. To include improving what we eat, but also increasing the amount that we exercise," Currier explained.

Still, Currier thinks that learning healthy living skills as a child will translate into healthier adults in the future.


Photo from the Casey Elementary Website.



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