Children’s complaints about the healthy food choices in their cafeteria this year are in the news this week. School districts in several states are rethinking their school menus in these first weeks of school because children are not eating lunch and food is being thrown away. These districts are complaining that serving healthy foods that children will not eat is a waste of food dollars for the district. The issues of wasted money and food that is not eaten add to the issue of childhood obesity that statistics have shown to be falling, but will rise again if children are not eating healthy choices in the school cafeteria.
The Sarasota County School System has implemented a creative system for helping children choose healthy foods from the school menu each week. School menus are color coded with Green for Go foods, Red for Whoa foods, and Yellow for Slow foods. The menus are online for parents to see the weekly choices and to discuss the choices that children will have for each week in the cafeteria. All menus, including menus for the charter schools are available by logging on to www.SarasotaCountySchools.net. The color coded menus make choices easy, and children still have the opportunity to choose some favorite foods that are marked Yellow for Slow and Red for Whoa in moderation. Using the color coded choices can help children see that they can still eat their favorites through the week if they also choose some of the Green for Go foods on some of the days.
All fruits and vegetables that are served weekly are marked as Green for Go foods. Some entrees are marked with Yellow for Slow or Red for Whoa, but children may still choose mac and cheese, pizza, and all beef hot dogs from the menu if done in moderation. These choices eliminate the possibility of children feeling that their favorite foods have been taken away. Using the stoplight system makes planning with parents for the school’s menu choices fun, and children feel empowered by choosing what they will eat for lunch at school with both healthy and not so healthy choices. Baked French fries are actually marked as a Green for Go food because they are baked and not fried.
Children are more likely to choose Green for Go foods if these foods are mixed with Yellow for Slow and Red for Whoa foods. Parents are encouraged to participate in helping their children to choose to eat healthy this year and still have some of their favorites for lunch by checking out the weekly menus for their child’s school on the Sarasota County School website.