In the nearly 156,000-student Gwinnett County Public Schools, a nutrition fair was held last month to increase parent awareness about the district’s foodservice program. “When healthy eating habits are established at an earlier age, our students are less likely to encounter many health issues at a later age,” says Michael McEvoy, Peachtree Ridge High School’s nutrition program manager. “If a family as a whole makes healthy choices, there are many added benefits, including better performance in school.”
The fair not only provided families with information about the district’s nutrition department but also offered free cooking classes where participants learned healthy recipes that could be replicated at home with minimal culinary skill.
In addition, samples of the district’s vegetarian and organic line were available. The menu’s five items—chicken nuggets, corn dogs, grilled burgers, chicken patties and black bean burgers—were introduced in October 2007. All five items have been available at the middle and high schools, but only two have been offered at the elementary schools. However, due to the success and popularity of the items—nearly 143,000 chicken patties were served between October and March —all five items will be offered in the elementary schools next school year.
“Today’s students are more concerned, savvy and conscious about what they’re eating,” says Karen Crawford, nutrition education coordinator for the district. “Students are making sophisticated choices and nutrition education is getting to them, and they’re learning about what they are consuming.” Part of that nutrition education is marketing these healthier choices at the point of service, on bulletin boards throughout the schools and at the nutrition fair.