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WCPS Celebrates National School Lunch Week
By: Odtis Collins, Coordinator of Food Services
Next week, Worcester County Public Schools will celebrate National School Lunch Week. This year’s theme, “School Lunch: Show Your Spirit”, challenges students, staff and school officials to come together to show just how much school spirit they have for school lunch. It’s also a perfect time to recognize the important role each food and nutrition staff member plays in creating healthy meals and nourishment for students, staff and our communities.
Did you notice I said “food and nutrition staff member”, not cafeteria staff? Since the inception of National School Lunch Week, which was created in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy, and with so much focus/changes in nutrition standards for school lunch, our food and nutrition staff had to learn all about nutrition as it pertains to the stringent federal nutritional guidelines for school meal patterns. As Worcester County Public Schools continue to set high expectations of a healthy school environment, we continue to train and learn all the latest professional standards of proper nutrition in order to safe-guard our student’s health and wellness and for that reason, I think it’s appropriate to call our cafeteria staff what they truly are: food and nutrition staff members.
Nutrition Standards for School Meals are established by the federal Department of Agriculture, but they are based on science, including the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which is released every five years, and other leading scientific federal requirements. Did you know in order to participate in the National School Lunch Program our staff must be able to identify that students are following the federal nutritional meal pattern when students make their meal choices, which includes five food groups/components including milk, fruit, vegetable, meat/meat alternative, and a grain (all grains/products must be 51% whole grain rich)? It may sound simple, but it’s not, and furthermore staff must be knowledgeable of appropriate portion sizes in order for meals throughout a school week comply to calorie, sodium, saturated fat and, trans fat limits.
In honor of National School Lunch Week, allow me to commend our food and nutrition staff for their knowledge of nutrition. As part of our celebration, our schools are engaging both their students and their local communities in a number of fun activities throughout National School Lunch Week, such as:
- The school mascot may make an appearance;
- Inviting parents to share a SCHOOL MEAL with their kid(s);
- High School athletes taking pictures and eating fruits and vegetables at an elementary school;
- Educating students on the different type of potatoes and holding a “Mr. Potato Head” contest;
- Decorating cafeterias with cheerleading items, food type balloons and having a table or easel in the lobby showing kids eating yummy lunches;
- Staff dressing up as cheerleaders; and
- An Art class is making a “Show Your Spirit” banner.
In closing, our food and nutrition staff truly “Show their Spirit” each and every day by serving nutritious meals, so students can reach their full academic potential and physical growth and most importantly they have fun serving every student that participates in our National School Lunch Program. It’s been proving that School Meals provide the “proper nutrition and key nutrients that fuels academic success”.
For more information about National School Lunch Week, or our Food Services program, please contact me by calling (410) 632-5000.