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Healthier meals for area children

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National efforts to reduce obesity in children are being seen at local schools.

Children in Amarillo schools now have access to more organic foods, homemade meals, and a wider variety of fruits and vegetables. Schools are providing more nutritious meals for students.

AISD Child Nutrition Services Director Brent Hoover says, "It's balancing a well-balanced meal every single day. And so part of it has been changing the products that we use. And also looking at every single recipe, and every single item that we purchase meets those requirements." Hoover says before, they were able to exceed the calorie intake requirement for a child by about 10%. But now they're not allowed to go over and still have to provide a well-balanced meal.

The USDA is now able to regulate school meals for the first time in over 30 years through the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. A third of the country's children are overweight or obese. And they're trying to reduce this statistic by requiring schools to provide healthier meals.

For example the crust on a slice of pizza cannot exceed two ounces. Hoover says, "What we've had to do is reduce that crust. In essence, basically it's like a thin crust that you would get. It's still whole grain, and it's nutritious as possible because we know that's one of the kid's favorite."

Also, students are required to choose a fruit or vegetable as part of their meal. Many children are following through. Hoover says, "Most kids will find something that they'd like to put on the tray. So they're already selecting those items. They've made those changes. So we're really just trying to encourage them to make good choices everyday, where that's for breakfast and lunch."

They're now including more homemade foods like lasagna and spaghetti and meat balls. Hoover tells us they're trying to offer the food children like but with healthier ingredients. He says, "We make it as appealing as possible and make the environment fun where the kids want to participate and select their own menu offerings."

Parents can help children develop healthier eating habits by placing fruit baskets in sight at home for kids to snack on.

Jessica Abuchaibe, NewsChannel 10.

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