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Schools adapt to new nutrition rules
Theresa Duffy pulled three clear boxed lunches - each filled to the brim with a variety of fruits - from the refrigerator at Risley Middle School on Tuesday.

"I can't keep these things stocked. Kids keep buying them," said Duffy, the school's cafeteria manager.

Shortly after restocking the bin next to the register with both the fruit and boxed salads, sixth-grader Jada Stuckey reached in to get her lunch, a large salad toped with grilled chicken.

"The salad is good," Jada said. "I don't really like the sandwich today."

With eight lines, each offering different dining options, the Risley cafeteria is a model of the mall food-court style adopted in many modern school lunchrooms.

The idea, according to Duffy, who is also the president of the local chapter of the Georgia School Food Service Association, is to give students more healthy options while keeping them interested.

So far it seems to working, she said.

"They seem to be responding well to the new items," Duffy said.

It is the first year she and her colleagues in the Glynn County School System are creating menus around new nutrition regulations passed down by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the agency that runs the national school lunch program.

Janet Mitchell, director of culinary services in Glynn County, said the transition has been smooth because the school system has taken steps in recent years to make lunch menus healthier.

Over the last four years, school cafeterias in Glynn County have eliminated fried foods and started offering more fresh vegetables, Mitchell said.

This year, the system replaced the desserts of elementary students with fresh fruits.

"We were worried in the elementary schools because we cut out desserts," Mitchell said. "They have taken to it well."

For older students, the school system took away the bread stick that used to accompany each slice of pizza.

In addition to reducing the intake of carbohydrates through white bread and white potatoes, menus now feature larger portions of fruits and vegetables, Mitchell said.

Cafeterias are providing students with more choices to make up for what is no longer offered, she added.

"People are always surprised by how many choices we have," Mitchell said.

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