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Students help revamp school lunch menu in Gwinnett County

Posted August 9

— Students at Gwinnett County public schools return to class Monday with new menu offerings, thanks to input from the students themselves.

With nutrition a top priority under the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010, the challenge was to create nutritional meals that students will actually eat.

"Those are our customers," said Karen Hallford, assistant director of school nutrition for Gwinnett County Public Schools. "So the second half of last school year, we decided to go out and talk directly to them in small student focus groups and find out what they want."

The common theme in students' responses? They want bold flavors.

"They want well-seasoned food. They want fresh," said Hallford. "They want to be able to customize, so they want to be able to make it their own with toppings and condiments. And they also want variety. They want lots to choose from every day."

The revamped menu includes lots of choices and new entrees like hand-pulled BBQ smoked over open-pits in Tennessee.

Gwinnett County Public Schools also is highlighting its Farm-to-School program. Forty percent of its produce comes from farms in Georgia and surrounding states. This month's featured menu item: the Georgia-grown watermelon.

Hallford said the idea is to offer items that look, smell and taste fresh and inviting.

"The old saying, 'Eat a rainbow," ensures you're eating lots of different fruits and vegetables and getting all the nutrients that you need, so that's what we try to offer."

Gwinnett County has the largest school district in the state with an expected 2017-2018 enrollment is more than 180,000 students.

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