The state is taking a stronger role in making sure Mississippi students lead healthy lifestyles. Dr. Roberta Montgomery Collier started her job this week as director of the new Office of Healthy Schools.
Part of her job is to fight childhood obesity by encouraging children to eat nutritious meals, exercise and make the right choices. The Summer Nutrition Program in Biloxi Schools is doing just that, promoting healthful eating.
The choices are so tempting in the cafeteria at North Bay Elementary in Biloxi.
"I picked fruit cocktail, a bun, steak fingers and salad," 8-year-old Shelby Bourgeois said.
"I picked spaghetti, fruit, bread, corn, and milk," 7-year-old Keondre Davis said.
Everyday, about 1,500 children line up at four Biloxi schools to enjoy hot, nutritious lunches that are also kid-friendly. The schools will offer the free lunches to children 18 and under, from now until July 16th.
Kerry Lawrence is the Food Service Director.
"You'll find spaghetti, corn dogs, and chicken nuggets. But we partner those chicken nuggets that may not be very healthy with some fresh fruit and green beans or other items that make it a balanced meal, rather than just letting the kids pick up fast food or just snack foods that they might otherwise eat during the summer".
"It's great, and it's delicious because my mom doesn't really cook a lot," Keondre Davis said.
Although the program has been around for five years now, many parents either don't know about it or don't take advantage of it. That's why the Biloxi School District is sending out nearly 10,000 fliers and running newspaper ads to encourage more families to participate.
"It's a free program. There's no registration. There's no fee required. Basically, it's economically smart to take advantage of the program, and also we want to encourage the children to eat healthy meals," Kerry Lawrence said.
The free lunches are available at North Bay, Dukate, and Jeff Davis and Beauvoir elementary schools. The hours are from 11:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. You can check with your local school district to find out if it also offers a summer lunch program.