By Ashley Porter - email
JACKSON, MS (WLOX) - Inside Clausell Elementary School, a lot of questions are being shouted over the chorus of conversation already going on in the cafeteria.
"Fruit or vegetables?" one teacher asked a long lunch line of students.
"You want pineapples?" another teacher said.
"I want fruit! I want fruit!" two students cheered.
"If you don't eat healthy, it's just like you're a big slob or something," 5th grader Destiny Reynolds said before laughing. Reynolds said she's noticed a change in her cafeteria since she started school there years ago.
"They're making new food that we can eat and it's more healthy," she said. But on Wednesdays and Fridays, she still loves to eat the pizza served in the cafeteria.
The adults see a change too.
"We've removed all soft drinks," said Mary Hill, executive director of food services for Jackson Public Schools. And that change has the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) praising Mississippi for taking the biggest bite of any state out of junk food.
"We are the engine that prepares them every day to learn in the classroom. It's important what our children eat each and every day," Hill said.
Before food is served in school cafeterias, it's approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Food served in vending machines at Mississippi schools must follow state rules. Those rules include only low or no-fat milk, 100 percent juice, and water being served in most of the machines. High schools can also include light juices and low-calorie sports drinks.
Reynolds says it's not just the food, but the staff that encourages her to stay healthy.
"They're more than people who serve lunch. They're like family. Sometimes, they'll be like your mom or your dad," she said.