Columbia County pupils can expect to see a rainbow of colorful fruits and vegetables offered on the lunch line this year.
Grovetown Middle School sixth-grader Brooke Sims gets her lunch from the cafeteria line. The school has 99 percent participation in the lunchroom program.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Each color of fruit and vegetable is good for pupils in very specific ways, said Marie Jo Lombard, Columbia County's school nutrition coordinator.
Blue and purple, such as blueberries, help memory and prevent some cancers.
Green vegetables, such as green beans and broccoli, promote healthy vision, bones and teeth.
Orange and red foods, such as tomatoes, oranges, carrots and peaches, contribute to a healthy heart.
Lombard said that along with the new 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, on which school menus are planned and analyzed, the Columbia County School System is offering more fruits and vegetables to students for breakfast and lunch.
Dr. Alexia Barrientos, a pediatrician at Pediatric Partners of Augusta in Evans, said so many children are exposed to fatty foods, such as french fries, before they learn to walk and often do not eat enough healthy fruits and vegetables.
"I guess it depends on the population you use," Barrientos said. "In general, most of them (children) do not get enough (fruits and vegetables)."
The USDA pyramid recommends two to four servings of fruit and three to five servings of vegetables per day.
Lombard said less than 20 percent of school-age children eat the recommended amount of fruit, while less than 15 percent eat the suggested number of vegetables per day. This year's school menu will offer more vegetables and fruits for breakfast and lunch and less of high fat items such as french fries.
She's hoping the new choices, combined with education, will help young people learn better eating habits, such as grabbing for an apple instead of a chocolate bar.
"It is extremely important for kids to increase their fruit and vegetable consumption," Lombard said. "It's really easy to increase it when you start thinking of fruits and vegetables as a snack. And not just something you have to be forced to eat because Mom says to.''
Barrientos said she thinks forming good eating habits early is important to proper development and to avoid obesity, which she said is a growing problem in children.
"Right now, there's so much exposure to fast foods, junk foods, sodas and some kids get introduced as soon as a year old," Barrientos said.
Instead of french fries, which will only be offered occasionally, Lombard said other healthier vegetable options will be available for children to choose from such as broccoli salad, marinated black bean salad, carrots, sweet potatoes, green beans, baked potato wedges and salad, which Lombard said is already popular.
"You get to chose," Lombard said, adding that children can get samples of anything they might want to try for the first time. "We're hoping to get kids to decide they want to choose those fruits and vegetables and experiment with things they may not have had before."
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