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Lunch VIPs designed to encourage healthier school eating habits

AMANDA SEBASTIANO
Staff Writer

In hopes of drawing awareness to healthier lunch options that schools across the county provide, Lincolnton Middle hosted an event last week to encourage eating cafeteria food.
School Lunch Week ran Monday through Friday, various speakers passed through the LMS cafeteria, giving some students the opportunity to eat lunch with the mayor or converse with N.C. Rep. Jason Saine during lunchtime.
Friday, Saine sat with Assistant Superintendent for Business Steve Zickefoose and a few others as he ate his lunch and waited for students to sit down for a chat. During the two hours he spent on campus, he spoke with a few students about technology in the classroom and was impressed with what he heard.
“I know they (students) could’ve just been saying it, but they all seemed to genuinely enjoy school,” Saine told the Times-News last week.
Children who are members of the Nutrition Advisory Council (NAC) had the chance to sit with visitors, such as eighth-grader Beulah Chesser, who has been enjoying the fruits and vegetables shes been munching on over the last few months.
Students like Chesser are putting more leafy greens and other produce on their trays in response to a mandate that altered nutritional standards for meal requirements in the National School Lunch and Breakfast Program. Now, fruits, vegetables and whole grains must be incorporated into the lunches children are eating at school. Changes went into effect at the beginning of the school year to comply with the legislation.
At first, students seemed to have a hard time adjusting to the new food rules and were formerly-reminded to grab a milk with their lunch. Area cafeteria staffs are now switching gears to comply with the requirements.
The crew at Lincolnton Middle hoped the presence of local authority figures would show students the importance of a balanced diet and that cafeteria food isn’t what it used to be — it’s better, Saine laughed as he remembered what he ate at school when he was growing up.
Lincolnton Fire Chief Mitch Burgin was also among the visitors of the week, bringing along a fire truck — a prop that excited the children.
LMS cafeteria employee and NAC advisor Joy Clark said she was glad to have the opportunity to bring humility to the names of the participants who showed up last week.
“When the kids see these big names, like President Obama or whoever, they think those people are untouchable,” Clark said, “I want them to know that they are people, too.”
Children were curious about the area leaders and were eager to learn about their daily tasks, inquisitively asking the mayor about his schedule and other details about his life.
At the end of the week, the cafeteria staff was happy with the students’ positive responses to the guests and the food — hoping to put a healthy diet in a better light for the youth.
“A lot of these kids don’t have access to fruits and vegetables at home, but at school, they do,” Clark said.

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