National School Lunch Week celebrates 50th anniversary

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 10/14/97.

This school year, schools across the country are serving more healthful and more appealing school meals, and school children are learning to make food choices for a nutritious diet. The National School Lunch Program, which began in 1946, is celebrating its 50th anniversary. The theme for School Lunch Week is ďSchool Lunch: A World of Taste.Ē

The 1996-97 school year was the first year the school meals had to meet the dietary guidelines for Americans under the new School Meals Initiative for Healthy Children. This initiative, created to help schools make necessary improvements, is providing nutrition education for children and training and technical assistance for school food service professionals.

In the Paynesville Area School District, about 1,020 meals are served daily in kindergarten through 12th grade.
The state requires that all schools serve a type ďAĒ lunch which includes two ounces of protein, a half cup of vegetable, a half cup of fruit or a combination of both, a serving of bread and eight ounces of milk. The state mandates high school students receive 15 servings of bread a week.

The Paynesville middle and high school students are given three ounces of protein, and serve themselves the fruit and vegetables. Besides the type ďAĒ lunch, the students have three other options for their noon meal, cold meat sandwiches, a chef salad or a bag lunch. A lot of students opt for the bag lunch as it is faster and allows them to participate in other activities.

The school cooks start work at 6:15 a.m. preparing the days menu, doing their baking first. From 7:55 to 8:15 a.m., the elementary school cooks serve breakfast to about 50 students. Preparing meals in the elementary, middle/high school food service are: Sharon Wendroth, Betty Sieben, Rhonda Adams, Kathy Mueller, Alice Younkin, Deb Bennett, Diane Keller, Lori Nepsund, Marilyn Herzberg, Deb Bengtson, Cathy Weber and Mary Solum.

ďStudies show that education and good nutrition go hand in hand. Students that donít eat breakfast do poorly in school and have problems concentrating,Ē Barb Koehn, food service manager, said.

ďPaynesville offers one of the least expensive school lunches in the area,Ē Koehn said. A meal in the elementary school costs $1.25 and the high school/middle school is charged $1.35 which includes beverage.

Schools participating in the National School Lunch Program receive federal and state funds for each student meal they serve. This reimbursement makes up the difference between what the lunch costs to produce and what the student pays. Although the amount of federal reimbursement paid per lunch depends on the economic need of the student, reimbursement keeps the cost of lunch low for all students.

Many schools also receive a variety of commodity foods from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Commodities include: lean ground beef, chicken, chicken patties, ground turkey, pork patties, French fries, tator tots, fruit, vegetables, juices, flour, cheese, eggs, and new this year, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

The Paynesville students also have the option of planning their own menus. Koehn has a form with several options available from which they can select and still stay within the state guidelines.

When was the last time you ate in school? The meals are not the same, they have changed. Todayís school cafeterias provide much more variety. Students eat tacos, pizza, pancakes, chicken nuggets, spaghetti, subway sandwiches, and more.

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