In recent years, school lunches have undergone dramatic changes. Greasy pizza and unhealthy, fried food are things of the past for schools in Mississippi.
"We've increased all the whole grains, so now every grain in the cafeteria is a whole grain," explains Julianne King of the Child Nutrition Program of Lamar County Schools. "They decreased all of the fat so there's less than ten percent saturated fat in all of the meals that are served here. They decreased the sodium in all the school meals. And all the dairy products are fat-free. They're also required the kids to have a fruit or vegetable on their tray every single day."
While kids might have been hesitant at first, they now seem to love the new healthier, revised menu. Parents, too, are in favor of the menu makeover.
In 2010, healthy lunch programs were launched and federal nutrition guidelines were enforced nationwide. Mississippi received $2.8 million from the Agricultural Department to implement the changes. As of March 2013, 82% of Mississippi school districts met these guidelines. Compliance trailed that of only two states: Florida and South Carolina.
"Lamar County Schools comply with the USDA National School Lunch Program and in the last couple of years, they've made lots of strides to make school lunch healthier for all the children," says Julianne King.
These changes, of course, did not happen overnight. Careful planning and training were part of the preparation.
"The staff is well trained," says Julie Hamilton, Director of Training. "Every summer we have training classes where our new employees come and we teach them new techniques and how to get good flavors with less fat, sugar, and salt."