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Thursday, May 12 2011, 01:45 PM CDT

MADISON (WMSN) -- As parents - you do your best to make sure your child is doing great in school.


Have you graded your child's school lunch?


In a Special Report, Fox 47 News found out how the Middleton-Cross Plains School District is making the grade when it comes to healthy eating.


"It almost takes a magician to take the volume of food for hundreds of children in a very short amount of time, have it be ready to eat, easy to clean up, and all within a very limited budget," said Registered Dietitian and Professor of Nutrition at UW-Madison, Susan Nitzke.


On top of all of this - also making sure its healthy for kids. Nitzke says every school faces across the Badger State.


One school she says is getting it right, is the Middleton-Cross Plains School District.


We met with Susan Peterman, Coordinator of the district's nutrition program to find out how.


"We serve 9 schools - 6 elementary, 2 middle schools and our very large high school," said Peterman.


The district serves about 75% of the districts 6,000 students every day.


"We always have a protein always have a grain lots of fruits and veggies and of course 8 ounces of fluid, milk those are the requirements," said Peterman.


Peterman says one way she made eating healthy fun, was by starting the Farm-to-School Program in all 6 of their elementary schools.


"We bring a taste of the month every month to our elementary rooms this is for all children whether they bring lunch or hot lunch," said Peterman.


This year they've introduced everything from beets, to homegrown popcorn from Watertown, Wisconsin.


"Kids get to vote they tried it or they liked it," said Peterman


The Farm-to-School Program was so successful for elementary schools, leaders plan to expand the program for the districts two middle schools starting next year.


Another aspect of their nutrition, is covering up the healthier foods, with more familiar names, like chicken nuggets.


"Because if I were to put it on the menu as 'whole grain vitamin mineral enhanced chicken nuggets' there are some children who would opt not to eat that. Most importantly they'll always see the appropriate portion size which is not what you see when you eat out," said Peterman.


Not every school district across the country can afford to put together programs like this one.


The nutritionist for the Department of Public Instruction School Nutrition Programs says schools choose one of three different menu patterns.


Every 5 years, a nutrition consultant analyzes each districts menu.


"We analyze a weeks worth of menus, if the targets aren't being met. We send a copy of the report and recommendations of how to improve their meals. Then they would send back to us in writing how they're changing their menus," said Julie Cox, DPI Public Health Nutritionist.


The biggest challenge every school is facing in the future, is funding.


"We really do need to lobby for funding for nutritious programs because hungry children can't learn," said Cox.


There are ways for you to make sure your child is eating right.


One way is to keep track of monthly school menus. Ask your child when they come home, what they had for lunch at school. Lastly, Make sure to also get involved in any wellness council at your child's school. You can talk to your school principal to find out how you can help.

Special Report: Grading school lunches

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