Schools to observe National School Lunch Week

Published 6:21 pm Friday, October 10, 2014

Chilton County schools will join others across the country next week in highlighting their lunch programs as part of National School Lunch Week.

To celebrate NSLW 2014, various activities are planned at local schools Oct. 13–17 to give students, parents and community leaders a chance to see lunchroom upgrades, learn more about the National School Lunch Program and learn about health benefits associated with eating balanced meals at school.

“I don’t know that we’ve ever promoted it a lot, but we wanted to this year because we are trying to provide healthy lunches,” Child Nutrition Program Director Rachel Rachels said. “We are governed by federal guidelines. You don’t just cook a meal and put it out there. It’s a game you have to play about how to make it work.”

Nearly 7,800 students are enrolled in Chilton County schools, and about 74 percent of students eat school lunches.

According to the School Nutrition Association’s website, the theme of NSLW 2014 is “Get in the Game with School Lunch,” and “it’s about encouraging kids to find a balance between healthy eating and physical activity.”

The tentative schedule of local activities starts with the installation of new self-serve lines at Clanton Elementary School on Monday.

Students will be able to select and serve themselves a minimum number of foods each day that meet federal guidelines instead of being served all foods, regardless of their preferences.

“This will make all Chilton County schools offer versus serve,” Rachels said.

With the self-serve option, students are required to have five foods (including a fruit or vegetable, a grain and milk) on their plates, but they may choose among the foods offered.

“If you’ve been on a ‘serve’ meal, you’re given a plate of food with every component, so you have a lot of plate waste because you get it whether you want it or not,” Rachels said. “[Self-serve] allows kids to get what they want. That’s good for social skills, motor skills and helps build confidence because they learn to do things for themselves.”

Another school lunch upgrade took place at Verbena Annex this year.

The more than 120 students at the Annex do not have to ride buses every day to Verbena High School to eat lunch anymore, Rachels said.

“Students are no longer bused to the main campus for lunch,” she said. “They now eat at the Annex.”

Rachels said busing students to and from VHS for lunch posed safety concerns and infringed on instructional time.

“They were having to make two bus trips,” Rachels said. “That eats a lot of time.”

Rachels said she hopes to unveil breakfast carts at Thorsby High School and Chilton County High School on Thursday.

The carts are designed to be accessible to students as soon as they arrive at school in the mornings and to provide a quick, inexpensive and healthy meal to start their day.

Rachels said eating breakfast tends to help students score higher academically and have better behavior.

Items such as fruit, milk, cereal, biscuits, yogurt will be available on the carts.

“They can get a complete meal off that cart,” Rachels said. “As kids come in to the school, they can go to this cart and get their meal. I think it will be really convenient, and I’m anxious to see how it does.”

Chilton County High School also introduced a salad bar this year that is available every day as an alternate meal for students.

“The kids, I think, have really responded well to it,” Rachels said. “They like it. I felt like there was a real need there to try to encourage our kids to eat in the lunchroom.”

Also next week, Chilton County Board of Education members are invited to have lunch at Jemison High School at 11 a.m. Tuesday, and varsity athletes are invited to have lunch with elementary students Friday.

“We’ve got a lot of interesting things going on,” Rachels said.

To learn more about school meals and nutrition, visit