Sept. 23—High-pitched voices echoed in the cafeteria. Students flung backpacks beneath their feet or on benches as they found seats.
The kids knew the drill for breakfast at North Casper Elementary School on Monday morning, where 85 percent of the student body qualifies for free or reduced lunch and between 80 and 100 students eat a school-provided breakfast each day. One by one tables were released. Students lined single file for a meal.
Lunch clerk Kay Kunckel greeted each student at the front of the line, checking names off a list she kept on an iPad.
"Oatmeal?" Kunckel asked one boy hesitating on his decision between two lines of trays. One line offered hot oatmeal, the other cold cereal.
"It's pretty good,” Kunckel said, helping the student take a tray.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has kept a closer eye on school food programs such as North Casper’s during the past three years. As part of a federal initiative to combat growing rates of childhood obesity and diabetes, new regulations have increasingly specified what should go into meals served under the USDA's decades-long National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program.