LOST CREEK -- Baked potatoes with chili, cheese or sour cream and butter; salad bars with croutons, cheese and pepperoni; three kinds of fresh fruit, and low-fat chocolate milk.
School lunches have definitely changed since the first National School Lunch Week was established in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy.
"Our goal is to provide high quality nutritious meals that also appeal to our students," said Kathy Loretta, Harrison County's Healthy, Safe and Drug-Free Schools coordinator, who heads up the county nutrition program.
National School Lunch Week, Oct. 9-13, highlights the connection between eating a nutritious lunch and improved school performance.
The county-wide menus strive to balance fresh fruits, vegetables and lower-fat choices with popular selections like pizza and chicken nuggets. The lunches are geared to provide one-third of the recommended daily dietary allowance for calories, protein, vitamins A and C, iron and calcium.
More than 8,200 lunches are served daily throughout the system, Loretta said.
"Kids still favor pizza, but the salad bars and other healthy items are gaining popularity in the high schools," Loretta said.
At South Harrison High School, students on Tuesday had a choice of a ham and cheese sandwich, cottage cheese, pears or fresh fruit, salad, baked potato with toppings, or a cold line with pizza, a salad or the salad bar. Most of the students opted for the entree and the low-fat chocolate milk.
"The baked potatoes are pretty good, but I'd rather have the chicken nuggets. If they had chicken nuggets and mashed potatoes, that would be the best," said Laura Johnson, a sophomore.
Others liked the pizza.
"I get the pizza most of the time. I guess it's not too bad. But what I really like are the big pepperoni rolls," said Tori Ruckman, a freshman.
Still others had a different idea.
"I'd rather go to Burger King," said Kevin Daft, a new student at the school.
South Harrison's lunch program is unique in that the high school kitchen is also responsible for the preparation of 300 lunches served at the adjacent middle school. The high school cooks prepare the food, put it on carts and transport it down the hallway, outside and over to the middle school cafeteria.
"Cooking the food, transporting it and then seeing that it's served at both the schools keeps us very busy. It's hard work, but with careful planning we get it done," said Charlene McCall, the cafeteria manager.
McCall said the lunch program has little waste, but said the students do have their favorite items, like the school's homemade pizza, hot rolls and the big pepperoni rolls that are served with soup and sticks of cheese.
"I tell the cooks, the students eat with their eyes before they eat with their stomachs. We try to make the food appealing to the students, and a lot of them that come through the line thank us. That's a rare commodity these days," she said.
Assistant city editor Gail Marsh can be reached at 626-1447 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org