by Krystal Paco
Guam - It's not only about feeding the mind, but the body, too. Depending on your child's school cafeteria, today's lunch was pizza, carrot sticks, fresh fruit, ranch dressing and cold milk - or spaghetti with meatballs, a whole wheat dinner roll, broccoli and ranch dressing, and a banana.
But most of the cafeteria food ends up in the trash, says Agana Heights resident Ed Reyes. "A lot of kids that I know don't eat lunch because they don't like it at all. I know it's healthy, but you can't force them to eat it," he said.
Reyes' 4th grade granddaughter is a picky eater, which is why he prepares her lunch from home. "All they're going to eat is the fruit they like and the rest is just wasted...even at home if they don't like vegetables, they're not going to eat vegetables," he said.
Department of Education state program officer Jesse Rosario says all cafeteria meals are closely monitored to meet nutrient standards in line with President Barack Obama's Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010, which limits calories, saturated fat, and sodium, while banning transfat. "For elementary schools, kids are supposed to get three-quarters of a cup of vegetables, a half-cup of fruit, at a minimum per day one ounce of meat, and throughout the week they're supposed to get a maximum 8-9 ounces of meat," he said. "And for grains, they're supposed to get an average throughout the week 8-10 ounces of grains."
Food service administrator Paul Cruz says it's only been a month into the school year and the complaints from parents are coming in. Cruz admits any local whose plate consists mainly of meat and rice may get frustrated as Obama's act changes portions. For middle and high school students, meat portions have been reduced from 3 to 2 ounces. For elementary, it's a minimal ounce to encourage more fruit and vegetables.
"We've received many phone calls and we want to be able to compile all the information and be able to address this with the food manager contractor," said Cruz.
It isn't easy to please picky eaters, especially young children. Rosario says they're marketing cafeteria food to be fun with themed days and the launch of Superchef, a mascot promoting healthy eating. "A lot of kids are not accustomed to eating fruits and vegetables. We're putting them out there. He's telling the kids you need to eat your fruits and vegetables. It makes you strong. It helps you grow. It keeps you focused during school. You can be strong and big just like Superchef," he said.
For high schools, they're looking at increasing choices. Last school year they launched a salad bar at Okkodo High School, which resulted in students flocking to eat at the school cafeteria.