Phoenix Schools Providing Healthier Food

Much attention has been paid over the last few years to the weight (or maybe I should say overweight) condition of Americans. There have and continue to be many articles in the media, televisions shows devoted to the subject, and now even a reality show. The attention has not just been on adult Americans. Much attention is being paid to our overweight children and the health risks posed for them by the time they are adults.

The federal government already had set limits on the amount of fat and calories that schools could offer to children on their main menus. Many community groups have lobbied their schools to rid the facilities of soda and snack machines — and won!

Soda contains large amounts of high fructose. Just one soda daily can add several pounds each year to anyone’s weight, regardless of age. Fat, of course, adds high amounts of bad cholesterol, which eventually clogs arteries to the heart and causes strokes.

Because of the federal limits and community opinion, many Phoenix schools already had taken fried foods off their menus and soda out of their schools. Some Phoenix schools, however, continued to offer French fries as a side item, in order to get around the federal restrictions. They believed that asking Phoenix schools’ students to give up the staple they loved was asking too much.

Now, all Phoenix schools are required to eliminate certain foods from all of their menus. A new state law that is stricter than the federal limits now bans all junk foods, soft drinks, and fried foods from kindergarten through eighth-grade schools during the school day. All food sold on school premises during the school day must meet certain nutrition standards, making French fries completely off limits. There is no way to get around the restrictions this time.

Nutritionists in some of the Phoenix schools have gotten very creative in finding and providing substitutes. These Phoenix schools’ nutritionists have sampled many different varieties of substitutes for French fries over the summer months. They even have enlisted Phoenix schools employees as taste testers. Their decisive factors for the new substitute fries were: (1) they must bake quickly, (2) they do not become soggy under the warming lights, and most important, (3) they must taste good.

The new fries offered at many of the Phoenix schools this school year have many different names. Some are oven wedges, oven fries, and potato sticks. Whatever the Phoenix schools call them, they meet the criteria of the nutritionists and the new state law.

The Phoenix schools’ substitute fries are baked (not deep fried), have fewer calories (some are 25 percent less than fried), and half the fat. They are lighter in color than the original French fries, and lack the old familiar crunch and oily taste.

Most Phoenix schools’ students say they like the new fries — a little mushier than the old ones, but not bad. Others can deal with the new fries but prefer the originals.

As long as the Phoenix schools’ students eat them, as well as the other foods mandated by state law, parents at least know their children are getting one healthy meal each school day.