Given a choice, kids will eat healthy foods. Who knew?
The cafeteria lunch line at Columbus Elementary School moves quickly as students grab portions of carrots, celery, apples and oranges. French fries and hamburgers, once cafeteria staples, aren't even offered.
"I eat carrots or apples every day," said 10-year-old Alan Espino. He said he didn't notice that the bun holding his all-beef hot dog was whole wheat. Even the pizza available in the cafeteria has whole wheat crust.
The school cafeteria looks radically different from those of his parents' generation, and it appears many kids aren't turning their noses up at the new offerings. In fact, according to a survey of food service directors, french fries are decreasing in popularity and interest in carrots is skyrocketing.
As choices on the lunch line change, many children are accepting them, said Martha Conklin, an associate professor at Penn State University who conducts research about school nutrition programs and school food service.
"If you present these healthy offerings to children, they may turn them down the first time, but you can't give up," she said. "Children will adapt. Choice is important, but they can make those selections from healthy offerings."
On the other hand, as noted in the story sidebar:
[Texas] was set to phase in rules that include no sports drinks in elementary schools next year and no deep frying or sodas in any schools by 2009. But Todd Staples, the new state agriculture commissioner, is putting those changes under review.