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Published October 14, 2013, 03:42 PM

Grand Forks School lunches aimed at improving learning, promoting adventure

Grand Forks Public School students will be digging into pineapple, fish and other healthy foods this week in honor of National Schools Lunch Week.

By: Jennifer Johnson, Grand Forks Herald

Grand Forks Public School students will be digging into pineapple, fish and other healthy foods this week in honor of National Schools Lunch Week.

The aim behind the “School lunch across the USA” campaign is to reinforce the idea of healthy lunches and inform students about where food is grown, said Julie Zikmund, district dietician.

Every cafeteria in the district will hold some activity or event promoting the benefits of a healthy lunch, such as an activity sheet for the elementary children, said Julie Tunseth, child nutrition food service director. North Dakota pasta, Minnesota radishes and fresh pineapple are among the foods that will be served to students, and a U.S. map highlighting the state where the food originated from will hang in every cafeteria.

Healthy food, achievement

Students who eat a healthy breakfast tend to have higher school attendance rates, achieve higher math and reading scores, and perform better on standardized tests, as well as have fewer behavior problems, according to a 2013 report by the Midwest Dairy Council.

The same is true for school lunches, said Zikmund.

“Kids attend to school better when they’re not hungry,” she said. “They attend to the task better, and they can concentrate better because they’re concerned about what’s going on in the educational process, rather than their hunger.”

Although the district has participated in the program in the past, she said a good school lunch is still important – it represents a “learning library” no differently than a classroom would.

“One of the things we know is there are a lot of students who come to school and don’t have a good breakfast or good lunch,” she said. “So, it’s really important that the children have the opportunity to see all of the food components. They see whole grains, they see low-fat dairy and milk products, and they see an appropriately-sized protein portion.”

Students also learn that foods don’t just come from the freezer, as the maps show sweet potatoes are grown in North Carolina and oranges come from Florida.

Fish tacos will be served to students this year for the first time, and Tunseth hopes they’ll respond positively.

“Maybe when they learn the fish comes from Alaska, they’ll become more adventurous,” she said.

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