School lunchrooms: Students may buy Cheetos, but some argue for healthier foods

For much of the last year, parents Karen Devitt and Lindsey Parsons have lobbied Montgomery County school officials to bring healthier food into school cafeterias and do more to let families know exactly what food children are able to buy at school.

They say many school lunchrooms sell such items as Cheetos, Doritos, Welch’s fruit snacks, Cheez-Its, cookies and ice cream.

School officials maintain the items they sell are not a secret and that all of their snacks meet county wellness guidelines. Many are low-fat or multigrain versions of popular foods, said Marla Caplon, director of food and nutrition services for Montgomery schools.

Conversations about healthy eating at school are continuing. Devitt and Parsons spoke at an October school board meeting and say they are hoping to advance the discussion about improving food quality and freshness with what it is being billed as the county’s “first-ever school food forum.”

The event, on Saturday, is being sponsored by the nonprofit Real Food for Kids - Montgomery, which the two mothers founded last October, and the nonprofit Montgomery Victory Gardens. Its focus: “Creating a Vision of Fresh, Real Food in Montgomery County Public Schools.”

A keynote address is expected to be given by Tony Geraci, the former food director of Baltimore City Public Schools and the subject of the documentary “Cafeteria Man.”

Other speakers on their list include Caplon, of Montgomery schools; Lisa Lefferts, a senior scientist at the Center for Science in the Public Interest; Shivani Narasimhan, an endocrinologist; Kathy Lawrence, of School Food FOCUS; Jill Coutts, a horticulture teacher at Sherwood High School; and Karla Kratovil, school garden coordinator at Flower Hill Elementary School.

More information is available at www.realfoodforkidsmontgomery.org and www.montgomeryvictorygardens.org

The event will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Lutheran Church of St. Andrew on New Hampshire Avenue in Silver Spring. It will include a locally sourced lunch and costs $25 for adults and $15 for students; scholarships are available.

Donna St. George writes about education, with an emphasis on Montgomery County schools.

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