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Schools test tasty, healthy foods on students
BEAUMONT - by Lauren Huet
It's a struggle finding nutritious cafeteria food, or any nutritious food, that kids will actually eat. According to a report by the Texas Department of State Health Services, at our current pace nearly 75-percent of Texas adults will be overweight or obese by 2040. Furthermore, obese children have a fifty-percent chance of becoming obese adults.
Thursday, Region 5 Food Service Cooperative held its 14th annual School Food Show and Tasting. Eighty food vendors attended this year's event, "School Nutrition Across Texas." Vendors showed off their creations, which were much healthier than they appeared.
John Heyn, a food vendor with Acosta, said his french fries are baked instead of fried.
"You know you put them in the oven, you put them in for like 400 degrees, and you just broil them real quick, and they're nice and crispy," said Heyn. "And the kids might have just thought you went out to McDonald's."
Other healthy items included 100 percent fruit juice desserts with no added sweetener. Most are colored without food coloring.
"We use vegetable juice for red, for the yellow we use turmeric, we use beta carotene, there's natural colors available," said food vendor Jim Kaplan from Sidekicks.
All of the food at the show met rigorous nutrition standards. The goal is to make these healthy dishes delicious so kids can't tell the difference.
"It's good, that's all I can say," said Cole Clark, a student from Chester ISD.
"We have very strict guidelines now with school nutrition," said the Food Service Director for Huntington ISD, Amanda Calk. "Whole grains, no fat, low sodium, more fruits and vegetables, those types of things."
With childhood obesity a national problem, schools are fighting back.
"If the trends in childhood obesity continue, this generation of children may be the first generation to not outlive their parents," said Calk.
"The longer you're obese, the more medical problems you acquire, and obviously if your obesity started when you were a child, you're probably going to start having problems in your teens or your early twenties," said Dr. Msonthi Levine. "Whereas now we see those issues in the late forties early fifties."
Schools and food vendors are working to create healthy foods kids will eat.
"It's not nutritious if it goes in the trash. So that's our goal, is to get kids to eat," said Calk.
Students voted on their favorite foods at the event. The winning dishes will end up on their cafeteria menus.