By Debbie Carson, Online Editor
VERO BEACH — Students and parents at Beachland Elementary are used to sharing lunch at the school’s campus on a regular basis. But this week, something’s different. They received pencils, coloring books and other special treats alongside their lunch.The non-edible lunchtime treats are in honor of National School Lunch Week, an effort to promote school lunches as nutritious and vital to learning.
“Children can’t learn unless they’re fed,” said Laura Roberts, the district’s Food and Nutrition Services director.
Parents are invited to have lunch with their students at least once during the special week to see what their schools are serving the students and have a taste themselves.
“I try to have lunch with my kids once a month,” Roberts said. “It’s just an enjoyable thing.”
The school district hopes to reach out to students and families who are not currently taking part in the school lunch program – because they’re uncertain about the nutrition, choose to go without lunch or for some other reason.
Roberts said that participation in the program has been “pretty solid” despite the economic conditions. However, the numbers are down this school year due to lower student enrollment in the district’s schools, Roberts added.
One trend that Roberts said she has noticed is that there are more families enrolling in the free/reduced lunch program, which also provides free/reduced breakfast. There are also fewer students purchasing lunch items from the ala carte lines.
Along with offering healthy lunch choices, Roberts said that the schools also offer variety – in the form of vegetarian dishes and different entrees. Students with special dietary needs, too, can expect to find meal choices that accommodate them.
During the week, students and parents can expect to participate in skits, pop quizzes and trivia games all focused on healthy food and eating habits.
“It’s a nice exciting time for us,” Roberts said.
Parents wishing to dine with their students at school must check in at the front desk of their school to notify administrators that they are on campus.
Lunch for parents is $3.25. Student lunches are $2.50 at the high schools, $2.25 for elementary and middle schools, and 40 cents for the reduced lunch enrollees.
For more information about National School Lunch Week, visit the Indian River County School District’s Web site at www.IndianRiverSchools.org.