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Greenwich Schools Aim for Healthier Menus

GREENWICH, Conn. – Do you know what’s in your child’s lunch? The Greenwich public school system is making it easy for parents to find out what their children are eating and whether it’s healthy.

On average, American children will eat more than 2,300 lunches while in school. That means the food a school district serves can have a major impact on a student’s nutrition.

Greenwich has an online service called “My Lunch Money” that allows parents to balance their children’s meals. It also shows the menu and what food each student has purchased.

Greenwich schools operate under a system called “Offer vs. Serve,” which is designed to decrease food waste and give students greater flexibility in picking what they eat for lunch. With “Offer vs. Serve,” students must choose at least three foods from five groups. The groups are meat (or meat alternative), grains/bread, milk and two or more servings of fruit and vegetables.

Greenwich participates in the National School Lunch Program, which emphasizes lunch choices consistent with the food pyramid. The guidelines include a variety of foods, including grain products, vegetables and fruit; moderate sugars and salt; and food with 30 percent or less of calories from fat and less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fat.

Greenwich schools have no deep fryers in any of its 15 kitchens. That means all foods that normally would be fried are baked. All vegetables are steamed to maintain nutrient value. All fruit is served fresh.

Greenwich’s school lunch program is one of only two in Connecticut that gets cash from the state to buy its own food rather than using surplus food from the federal government.

Are the school meals making kids overweight? The National Conference of State Legislatures found in 2007 that 25.7 percent of children between 10 and 17 in Connecticut qualified as overweight or obese. While this ranking is lower than many states, it still means that more than a quarter kids in that age group have a medically diagnosable weight problem.

Greenwich elementary schools offer two hot foods and three cold choices. For example, the Monday lunch offerings include pancakes and sausage links, graham cracker, pizza, salad, yogurt, cereal, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, garden salad, fresh apples, peaches, assorted fruit juices and milk.

At the middle schools students have three hot choices and three cold choices, in addition to items such as reduced-fat cookies, whole wheat bagels or ice cream. On Monday, middle school students also are offered pancakes with syrup, turkey sausage and graham crackers, but they also can choose a large gorgonzola salad or hot dogs with sides of apples, pineapple juice or peaches.

At Greenwich High, students are offered six to eight hot choices and an unlimited combination of cold choices. On Monday, students can have baked white meat chick tenders, spaghetti and meatballs, pizza, salads, homemade meatloaf and cheeseburgers.

Now it’s your turn. Head over to the Greenwich Public Schools website and check out what your kids are eating at school. Then, let us know what you think by commenting below or emailing ahelhoski@thedailygreenwich.com

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