Journalism Next from Braden River High School: Cafeteria food and health changes made from last year

Special to the HeraldNovember 26, 2012 

Within the cafeteria there are mysteries, unrevealed stories, and generalizations. The curiosity of many still continues, for questions are unanswered because no one ever asks them. People are hungry, and they are hungry for some facts.

Most students would have never guessed that the food service manager at Braden River High School, Kelly Murphy, was a manager at Outback for the past 20 years and the owner of a steakhouse restaurant outside of Boston for five years. After retiring and moving to Florida three years ago, she decided that she wanted to ensure kids are provided with a good meal, "students are customers to us. They need to be treated like a customer at a restaurant."

Braden River is one of the many schools throughout the state that has modified their options to meet the new regulations. Before being served, cafeteria staff confirms that the nutrient standards are met by the USDA federal guidelines. Murphy personally goes through the weekly deliveries to check the quality and expiration dates of the food.

There are five basic food components: protein, grain, fruit, vegetable, and dairy. The caloric intake of an entire meal is usually limited between 600 and 800 calories, depending on individual choices.

For a school lunch to be considered a "full meal," half a cup of fruits or vegetables plus two other components must be purchased. Because different vegetables provide different nutritional values, they are categorized into five groups: dark green, red and orange, beans and peas, starchy, and other.

To supply students with new nutrients every day, one to two different vegetables are offered daily, along with a variety of fruit and 100 percent juice choices.

Regardless of body type, it is recommended that growing teenagers always take milk (whether it is fat-free chocolate or 1 percent white), some source of protein, limited carbohydrates, and a lot of fruits or vegetables. The caloric intake of an entire meal is usually limited between 600 and 800 calories, depending on individual choices.

Especially for athletes, "it is important to get the carbs necessary to be able to get through practice or workouts" senior baseball player Ryan Dyson said.

Some major alterations made from the previous school year include all the starch products being at least 51 percent whole grain. The caloric intake of an entire meal is usually limited to between 600 and 800 calories, depending on individual choices. Everything in the cafeteria is baked; in fact, the bread is freshly baked in the kitchen. Nothing is fried, except for the French fries, of course.

There are 13 food-service staff members at BRHS, including the two main cooks, the "prep" team, servers, and cashiers. They work from 6 a.m. to about 1:30 p.m. to provide fresh food every day. The food that is served at lunch is prepared each morning. The cafeteria staff cares about every individual's needs and preferences.

"What they (the students) want is important to me. If there are certain foods you want, I'll get it for you if I can. Just ask," Murphy said.

The mission of Braden River's cafeteria management is to help inspire young people to develop a well-balanced diet. They are committed to providing students with quality nutritious meals that are necessary for a healthy lifestyle. Food is fuel, so eat smart to be smart.

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