It’s usually no OK to play with your food, but for one week last month at Franklin County School, students had fun doing just that.
It was all in celebration of National School Lunch Week, Oct. 10-14, organized by Jody Lively, who oversees the afternoon supper program. Drawing on the theme “Show Your Spirit,” each day was devoted to celebrating the nutritious ingredients that make school lunches an important part of school kids’ daily activities.
Working with cafeteria manager Sherry Ard, Lively and her fellow staffers incorporated the flavor of varsity sports into the weeklong funfest, transforming giant pumpkins into a football player and a cheerleader. Every day was a different game, and students in all grades participated, although the younger ones were more captivated.
Monday was a veggie toss, where they threw Styrofoam veggies into bucket - corn, carrots, eggplant, broccoli, and peas – to earn prizes.
“The way they got to do this they had to go through the lunch line and we gave them a ticket once they got their tray. Each grade called out five winners, and they got to participate,” said Lively.
On Tuesday it was ring the pumpkins, dressed up as the football star and the cheerleader, and Wednesday was football toss, where kids tossed a small football across a pallet that looked like a gridiron.
On Thursday, it was pin the football, where the students wore blindfolds, and had to pin the football in the right place. Thursday was also the day parents came to school, as part of National Eat With Your Child Day. Friday was a game of spin the wheel, with more prizes to be won.
And of course each day was a chance for the cheerleaders to help cheer the competitors, plus there were dance-offs between parents and students, even including Principal Chip Clatto. On Wednesday, School Board Member Pam Marshall came out to help serve the students.
“That’s what it was about, to try to get kids excited, to get them participating,” said Lively. “Our goal as being in the lunchroom is to try to get kids to go through the line. We know it’s a healthy nutritional meal.”
Numbers for the week shot up by about 70-80 students for lunch.
Because the school has a large majority of low-income families, lunches are free to all those who choose to eat, and lots do.
The cafeteria, with three lunchtimes, feeds between 800-900 kids a day at lunch, and maybe a hundred or so fewer for breakfasts. Supper is much less, only about 80 kids, because that meal is limited to students taking part in tutoring or after-school programs.
Ard said the current challenge is to attract students while following government guidelines, which requires whole grains, and forbids salting foods. “They have to pick up a fruit or a vegetable, they have to pick it up,” she said.
The students can enjoy steamed broccoli, fresh carrots, baked beans and veggies like that, or fresh and canned fruit.
“Fruits they will take more than the vegetables,” said Ard. “A lot of them won’t even pick up the vegetables.”
While school does see a lot of food going to waste, they are trying their best to offer what kids like while meeting the standards.
“They love the starchy vegetables but we can’t serve it every day,” she said. “They love pizza and they love French fries but we can only serve it so many times a week. We have a calorie limit.
“We’re trying to encourage them more, to let them know what’s healthy, trying to inform them of all these new healthier choices,” said Ard. “We want them to come and get a lunch, but you can’t make them.”
One other things new this year is that the days of only “lunch ladies” may be ending.
Of the 17 people who work in food service, two are men this year. One handles the trash, while the other is training on the cash register, Ard said.