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No free lunch? Well, a free breakfast

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The Wadena-Deer Creek schools are serving up free breakfast and adding a Wellness policy to encourage healthy eating and a more active lifestyle among students.

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All students will be offered free breakfast each morning beginning this school year. Food Service Director Sandie Rentz said she has visited with other food service directors who have seen very positive results from offering free breakfasts in their schools.

"We're really excited," she said about the program. "Studies have shown that children who eat breakfast learn more and eat healthier."

The school will offer elementary students milk, juice and a different bread item such as a whole wheat muffin or cereal, Rentz said. The breakfasts will feature low fat and whole wheat options, because children who eat whole wheat products stay full longer, Rentz said.

Kindergarten and first-grade students will eat breakfast in the cafeteria, she said. The school will deliver breakfast in plastic containers to the other elementary grades.

High school students will be offered a hot breakfast entree or a choice of cold cereal in the cafeteria, Rentz said. The school has no idea how many students will choose to eat breakfast. She said they warned the milk supplier that they may need more milk.

"We're hoping that free breakfast in the high school will take off and students will come and eat with us," Rentz said.

The school is reimbursed for the free breakfasts from state and federal funds, she said.

The federal government requires that all school districts implement a wellness policy by the 2006-07 school year. The WDC school district Wellness Model Policy can be found on the school district Web site at www.wdc2155.k12.mn.us.

Superintendent Jerome Enget said the policy is a good thing for students, although the district was already meeting many of the requirements.

The policy addresses topics such as the importance of physical activity and making healthy eating choices.

Parents and students will not notice many changes right away, Rentz said. The schools will include more whole wheat and low fat food items to the lunch menu. Pizza crust and the breading of chicken nuggets are made from whole wheat flour, she said. Although, students likely won't notice the changes because of the way whole wheat is made now.

Schools are also adding some "upscale" salads as alternatives to the regular daily entree, Rentz said. Some of the salads will feature spinach instead of ice berg lettuce. She said the school is hoping students will try the new salads, although she believes everything they serve is nutritious.

The a la cart items will also be healthier, Rentz said. Students can chose from baked chips, low fat cookies, flavored water and more fruit snacks.

"Students are very receptive to them," she said about the healthy snacks.

Teachers are discouraged from giving candy and as a reward to their students, Rentz said. If they are going to give a reward, they are encouraged to give healthy choices.

In the future, Rentz said she hopes to incorporate more fresh fruits and vegetables into the menu. She would also like to develop a high school student group that would help the district create a menu and provide ideas on what new foods they would like to see.

"You need to remember everyday that the student is your customer," Rentz said.

sarah@wadenapj.com

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