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School Nutritionists Work to Change Eating Habits

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School nutritionists from across the Commonwealth are trying to get more students to eat healthier meals during the instructional day.  About 700 school cooks, managers, and administrators are meeting for a statewide conference this week in Lexington.  Kentucky School Nutrition Association President Sabrina Jewell says 17,000 fewer meals are being served at schools across the state, and the lack of participation is causing a financial crunch for lunch programs in many school districts.

"Because our program is federally funded, we're based off of participation,” Jewell said. “So, if they don't eat, then we don't have the money to run our programs.  General school taxes and all, they don't pay for school nutrition.  We're paid off of the meals that we serve."


New federal guidelines for healthier foods at schools across Kentucky are not welcomed by all students. Since enactment in 2010, Jewell says 17 thousand fewer meals are being served in school cafeterias.


"If you've personally made a switch from white bread to whole grain or whole wheat bread, there's a texture difference, there's a taste difference,” Jewell said. “It smells different.  When you take kids from something like that to whole grain, and they go hummmmmm, I don't know if I like that brown stuff."


Jewell says meeting federal healthy foods guidelines has required reeducation in cooking techniques.


"So, we're going back to more sort of scratch cooking,” Jewell said. “Well, we've lost some of those skills.  So, we're having to relearn, so we can serve better meals.  It's just one of those things that change takes times and that's what we're trying.  We're getting there, it's just taking a little longer than we anticipated."


Jewell says many upper grade students are going without food during the school day, while others may be going off campus. She says elementary aged children have adjusted to the changes better than middle and high schoolers.


Stu Johnson is a reporter/producer at WEKU in Lexington, Kentucky.
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