It’s no secret that given the chance, most children would choose stuffed-crust pizza or chicken fingers for every meal.
For this reason, among others, many Forsyth County parents are hesitant to allow their kids to participate in school meal programs, which are generally thought of as less healthy than a homemade meal.
“Some parents think they can prepare a healthier lunch,” said Andrea Perkins, a registered dietician and assistant director of Forsyth County Schools’ food and nutrition services. “But a lot of those [homemade lunches] are white breads with chips and a fruit juice. We give kids greens, juices with no sugar added, but yet all [parents] see is pizza or chicken chunks.
“We do serve [those,] but it’s whole grain breaded chicken chunks or whole grain crust and it really is healthier than what the parents pack because it’s specifically made for schools; it’s whole-grain rich, it’s low in sodium, it has zero trans-fat.”
Less than half — 42 percent — of Forsyth County students participate in school meal programs, a fact Valerie Bowers, director of FCS’s food and nutrition services, emphasized during Tuesday’s 19th annual Food and Nutrition Awards Banquet.
The banquet, which honors county schools and their cafeteria workers, was held on May 9 at the Forsyth Conference Center at Lanier Technical College in south Forsyth.
All of FCS’s brick-and-mortar schools were represented at the event, with many winning an award; 22 were recognized for increasing participation in school meal programs.
Bowers commended the work of the county’s staff.
“As we all know, that’s not an easy feat,” she said. “You should pat yourselves on the back.”
The banquet also recognized George Petty, lead plumber for FCS, as the 2017 Friend of the Program award winner, an honor first given last year in memory of Susan Woods, the program’s longtime director who passed away a few years back.
“In order to provide food to our students every day, we rely on the expertise and systems of others within our system,” Bowers said. “What a blessing it is when that support is frequent and given with a spirit of true partnership.
Let’s break it down
$2: Average school breakfast cost
$3.80: Average school lunch cost
5: Serving lines with at least two choices for high school lunches
11: School gardens the school nutrition program works with
335: Cafeteria employees
157,142: Gallons of milk served yearly
“This year’s recipient has been able to keep things running for the last 17 years. Always helpful and always kind to those of us who don’t know what a watt is from an amp, this recipient has been a tremendous help to our program by making sure purchases fit our needs and our budgets.”
At the event, 31 schools received a gold certificate for participating in Georgia’s “Shake it Up” competition, a statewide initiative sponsored by the Georgia Department of Education School Nutrition Team in partnership with the state school superintendent and the state board of education to strengthen the image and value of school meals.
The same 31 schools were also winners of the 2016-2017 Golden Plate award, which is given to schools with exemplary school nutrition programs.
Five of the district’s schools received the award last year.