Give peas a chance

Two weeks from today, Jeff Davis Parish’s (JDP) public schools will open to students for yet another academic year. This means cooking will be underway in cafeterias, too.

In Thursday’s edition of the Jennings Daily News, we reported that local school board officials have reviewed what goes onto students’ plates, and a few changes can be expected this year.

The menus look pretty good. Child Nutrition Program Supervisor Tina Coleman shared meal plans for a four-week period, which include cheeseburgers and fries, shrimp poppers, spaghetti, and chicken stew for lunch and waffles, ham, breakfast pizza and other items for morning eaters. The meals are also filled with sides such as rice, fruit, vegetables, and more.

Those foods might not taste exactly like what you would find in a fast food restaurant or your own kitchen. But, it is hard to deny kids can eat those types of items and  be satisfied with the changes.

Coleman and many other school board officials and employees have worked hard to create a menu that satisfies students’ taste buds and fills their bellies. A lot of people would think it should be relatively easy to come up with meal plans that provide tasty food in satisfying portions; a lot of people would be wrong, though.

When the Jennings Daily News sat down with Coleman earlier this week, she shared the national school meal pattern plans cafeterias are required to follow under federal guidelines. The plans read more like math equations than menus. Set amounts of milk, meats, veggies, fruits and grains can only be served within one week and meals cannot exceed certain levels of calories, saturated fat, sodium and trans fat. It is no easy task to determine what our schools should be serving.

School employees have been trying to do their best with federal changes but culture has played a big role in cafeteria food failures. Most of our local kids are accustomed to eating certain foods a certain way. The past few years have been tough in cafeterias because initial changes to feeding programs led to a steep drop in the number of kids eating in the lunch room.

But as a new school year approaches, we hope parents remember that the guidelines in place were created on a federal level, and Louisiana school districts have no choice but to follow such guidelines. Not doing so would lead to a loss of the free and reduced lunch program in JDP, as well as $2 million in federal funding. If you do have concerns about school meals, contact your school administrators or the school board and share your thoughts so they might possibly address your issue. Remember, however, that there are certain things our school officials will not be able to change.

Also, encourage your child to try school foods again. Maybe this time around, the recipes will stick. Encourage kids to try vegetables and fruit, too. Fruits and veggies have become a big part of school meals.

Most of all, remember that just because a kid doesn’t like what is on his plate does not mean it is not a perfectly good meal that should not go to waste.

Let’s get our kids back into local cafeterias to get them eating healthier foods so no student is going hungry, or functioning on junk food, during class. After all, we should be seeing some positive changes at the lunch table this school year.

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Posted by on Jul 25 2014. Filed under Editorial. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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