Joplin School District ensures students have healthy food choices

A teenager in England is now legally blind, and medical experts say his junk food diet is to blame. The young man reportedly ate nothing but Pringles chips, French fries, white bread, ham, and sausage.

Susan Pittman, a dietitian and diabetes educator with Freeman Hospital says this case might be extreme, but it shows what can happen when people eliminate some of the major food groups from their diet.

“In all the food groups, we have macronutrients that provide carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Each of those do something important for the diet. Help us build and repair our bodies is what protein does. Carbohydrate provides us energy and fat helps us regulate vitamins and minerals,” said Pittman.

Making sure that Joplin School District students have a wide variety of healthy choices is a big part of Rick Kenkel’s job. He’s the school district’s director of child nutrition and says the USDA mandates those five food groups have a major presence in local cafeterias.

“We stick to those five to start with, but then we expand the fruits to fresh fruits, canned fruits, cooked vegetables, canned vegetables, or cold vegetables on a salad bar. So we try to expand the variety and offerings that we do offer to all students in the district,” said Kenkel.

Kenkel says when students have a lot of healthy choices, they’re more inclined to eat an overall healthy meal, but he’s still making adjustments and wants to hear from students and parents.

“I’m working on a parent survey and a student survey, so that way I can evaluate what the parents view about the cafeteria and the lunch program, as well as the students,” said Kenkel.

That survey should be available to Joplin parents and students this fall.