Healthy Meals Served in Cartersville Cafeterias, Employees Say
Local schools serve a plethora of healthy foods, the school system's Director of School Nutrition says.
School nutrition provisions proposed last month would give schools more flexibility for the food they serve than a plan proposed earlier this year, one local school nutrition worker said.
In November, Congress came out with school lunch standards that would classify tomato paste as having two servings of vegetables, which is something that Tracy Morris, director of school nutrition for the Cartersville School System, said she can understand.
“It’s a tomato product,” Morris said. “I can see ketchup not being a vegetable because it has so much sugar.”
Serving food that students like and will eat while making it as healthy as possible is something that Morris said she tries to do. For example, the school system serves low-fat turkey corn dogs and, although it does serve pizza, it’s made with a whole wheat crust and low-fat cheese.
“If the kids don’t recognize it as a pizza, they’re not going to eat it,” Morris said.
The provisions announced last month by Congress also lift limitations on the amount of potatoes served, and delay a limitation on sodium and a requirement to increase the amount of whole grains included in foods. Morris said that the sodium limitations originally proposed were lower than the levels in foods given to patients on low-sodium diets.
“There’s no research indicating that children need that,” Morris said. “Adults do. I think it was something that they need to research more. I really feel like, and other places in Cartersville, we have very healthy, nutritious choices. We have a lot of choices so kids can make good choices.”
And giving numerous choices is what Cartersville’s school nutrition department tries to do. There are three choices at Cartersville Primary School, approximately six choices at Cartersville Elementary School, 10 choices at Cartersville Middle School and 15 choices at Cartersville High School.
Each of the stations in the high school’s cafeteria – which range from deli sandwiches, hamburgers and chicken fingers to a nacho bar and oven baked chicken – include several varieties of vegetables and fresh fruits for the students to choose from. The school system won the USDA Best Practices Award for menu planning in 2007, and the Best Practices for Georgia and the Southern Region for customer satisfaction in 2010.
“We have nutritious meals here,” Morris said. “People need to know that.”
Dalton resident Iris Graham visited Cartersville High School recently with a group of food service workers from school systems throughout Northwest Georgia to whom she was teaching a class. She ate at the high school that day and, having grandchildren in the local school system, she’s eaten at the primary school in the past on Grandparent’s Day.
“It was delicious,” Graham said, mentioning the fresh fruit, spinach, squash and other vegetables she observed on the various lines. “It was great. There were so many choices, and the color, variety and freshness was amazing. If you can’t find something healthy (here), you don’t know health.”
Anything can be healthy, Graham said. For example, the nachos that Cartersville High School serves are made with lean beef and are topped with vegetables like lettuce and tomatoes.
“Kids can get healthy meals,” she said. “Even things people consider to not be healthy choices can be healthy.”
The previously-proposed provisions also would have limited the number of starchy vegetables – such as potatoes, corn and lima beans -- to “just nothing”, Morris said.
“Potatoes are very healthy vegetables that kids love,” she said. “A baked potato is a very healthy product. Variety and moderation is what you need to do.”
Morris said she tasted products that manufacturers put out to meet the more stringent provisions and that they didn’t taste good.
“I was really concerned with children’s reactions,” she said. “I’ve tasted some of the things manufacturers have come up with, and they’re horrible. I think it was too restrictive. Kids need to recognize what they’re eating. And, they’re like us. They want it to taste good. It’s not going to do anybody any good if it goes in the trash.”