PONTE VEDRA, Fla. -- A school lunch that kids - and adults - look forward to?
Yes, it's possible.
A few years ago, according to PVPV/Rawlings Elementary principal Kathleen Furness, 55 percent of students bought the cafeteria lunch. Now, 70 percent buy school lunch.
"I was surprised to see that, but they see what I have," said Baker.
In fact, the lunches are healthier than they used to be. Baker said nothing on the menu is fried and students also are eating whole grains, though they may not know it.
"All of our pasta is whole grain," Baker pointed to the spaghetti. "Our buns for the hot dogs are even whole grain."
Fresh fruits and vegetables are served every day. And many are kid friendly, such as apple slices or baby carrots that come with dip.
"Children love to dip food, and as long as you give them the dip," Baker asserted, "they're going to eat it!"
The school also gave the students a survey with various foods on it. The kids picked their favorites, which are now on the menu.
The campus has 65 citrus trees on campus.
"Obviously, fruit is expensive," Furness said. "So here in Florida we've got sunshine and we did have some land on our campus... so we started planting trees 10 years ago."
She estimates that 6,000 oranges are harvested on campus and served in the cafeteria each year.
"It's saving us money. We introduce great vitamin C during flu season," Furness added. "And our children love them!"
Today, the federal government released new nutrition standards
for school meals that spell out dramatic changes, including lower sodium and calories, and offering students a wider variety and larger portions of fruits and vegetables. These changes will raise the nutrition standards for meals for the first time in more than 15 years.
First lady Michelle Obama announced the new standards today along with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Furness is proud of the healthy options she and her staff are providing their students at PVPV/Rawlings. Furness said she planned to invite the first lady to see their lunchroom and menu.
Because more children are eating school lunch, Furness said it's truly paying off. "We knew if we increased participation, we'd increase revenue."
According to Baker, the fresh food does take longer to prepare. However, that's where Baker's big heart comes in.
With tears in her eyes, she said, "I just love these kids and I want them to get the right nutrition. If it takes extra hours for them to get it, I'll do it for the children."
First Coast News