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Johnston Schools Serving Healthy Lunches, Lessons

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SMITHFIELD, N.C. — Too much sugar and fat often lead to weight problems for children.

One out of every five

is considered overweight.

In Johnston County, schools are fighting that trend with

healthier lunch choices


For Erica Thomas, lunch does not mean a break from learning. Every day, the lesson is good nutrition.

"I have soup. I have a cheese sandwich. I have a variety of fruit and I have a brownie," students Erica Thomas said.

This year, Johnston County Schools offer more Winner's Circle items in its cafeterias.

The national program sets the meal standard at no more than 30 percent of calories from fat, no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium and at least 245 milligrams of calcium.

Nutritionists believe the criteria will help reduce weight problems for children and prevent diabetes and heart disease in the future.

"We have really made an emphasis on changing some of the things we were doing to assist the children in the best way we can," said Beth Taylor, director of Johnston County's school lunch program.

Part of that emphasis means the milk bin also includes skim and low-fat options.

"They didn't have that a couple of years ago. You had the white milk and the chocolate milk and nothing in between," assistant principal Bridgette Spaulding said.

Parents are always welcome in the lunch room. The Kincaids are pleased with what they see on daughter Sierra's tray.

"I like to see the fruit, because she doesn't eat nearly enough fruit," parent Emory Kincaid said.

There is also no soda on the menu.

State law prohibits soda machines in elementary and middle schools. In high schools, the machines are turned off at meal times and access at other times is limited.

By serving up a better diet of food and drinks, the staff here hopes the children will take home a healthy message for breakfast and dinner.

Johnston County also participates in the state's school to farm program, where the school buys fruits and vegetables from North Carolina farmers.


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