SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Some school districts are turning up their noses at government nutrition rules for campus cafeterias getting federal aid, but Santa Barbara kids seem to have an appetite for the fresh fruits and vegetables that color their lunch plates.
Careful planning over the last five years has helped to change the menu from one that included processed meats and sugary drinks to choices that are nutritionally balanced and beverages like juice and tea.
Student Joe Cervantes had a slice of pizza covered with a side dish of cucumbers, grapes and melon.
His friend Joe Cervantes was already eating grapes and salad before getting to the register. He said it was all very tasty.
As they leave the cafeteria, staff members make sure every student has some fruit or vegetables with their entree. Most have both.
Director of Food Services, Nancy Weiss talked to many students about the menu, and found many excited about the choices. Today's lunch included meat pizza, pasta with vegetables, chicken, pork burritos, and high quality cheeseburgers.
There's quite a mix to choose from when it comes to the healthy side dishes including, "watermelon, radishes, tri-colored carrots, beets and okra," said Weiss.
One student used to go off campus, and saw better choices at school including the pasta and chicken. "I feel healthier," said Belmi Manzanarez. After trying a taste of pasta in line she said, "it was great, I really like it."
The daily food that is often referred to as "fuel for the brain," includes a healthy breakfast program for many children. Some are having it at their desks in the classroom and then go right into the daily lesson plan after their last bite.
This year the Styrofoam products are no long used. Instead paper products including forks, spoons, plates, and cups are made of materials that can be tossed in a special bin and used for compost.