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Health Guides White Plains School Lunches

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- Rina Heavner, 48, doesn't worry about the content of her son's lunches at George Washington Elementary School, just that he finishes enough of them.

"There is always fruit and I know they try to incorporate as many greens as possible," said Heavner, who has a second grader at George Washington Elementary School and a pre-kindergartener at Post Road Elementary School. “There's always dairy. The only thing is, I've heard they don't make the kids finish their food. I think with more encouragement from adults, they would eat more."

Heavner said a few times a month Benjamin will come with a "treat from the cafeteria" such as a bag of chips, however, she considers the amount of times that this happens to be appropriate. Her son, she said, is a "picky eater" and doesn't always take to lunchroom food.

Ed Marra, food services director for the White Plains School District, said crafting healthy lunches that appeal to kids can be tricky.

"That's not such an easy thing either because you can give them the organic, healthiest, blah-blah-blah, but they won't eat it—and that only costs us money," said Marra, who estimates the nutrition content of lunches puts White Plains  "ahead of the trends."

On average, American school children will eat more than 2,300 lunches over the course of their primary and secondary educations. If they are opting into school lunch programs, much of their long-term nutrition is dictated by the choices the school district provides.

A few years ago, White Plains integrated healthier initiatives into their lunch menus to ensure that staff wasn’t regularly serving unhealthy meals, according to Marra.

He said that White Plains students are only served low fat milk, often presented with whole wheat, such as on pizzas, sandwiches, and buns, and frequently given low fat cheese. Marra said the schools now offer more fresh fruits and vegetables.

Nationwide, approximately 17 percent -- or 12.5 million -- children and adolescents between ages 2 to 19 are obese, according to data from the National Health and Examination Survey. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines childhood obesity as having a body mass index (BMI) at or above the 95th percentile for children of the same age and sex. The CDC regards a child as overweight if his or her BMI falls between the 85th and 95th percentiles.

The National Conference of State Legislatures found that in 2007, 32.9 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 17 in the State of New York qualified as overweight or obese.

Concerns over school lunch contents have inspired some parents and even school staff like "Mrs. Q." to analyze school-served meals. Mrs. Q, an employee at an urban school in the Midwest, who discussed a year's worth of school lunches on her "Fed Up with Lunch" blog.

What are your thoughts on the White Plains school lunches? Are they healthy enough? Do your kids like the food? Join the conversation below.

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