May 24, 2010

Healthy eating is subject during Rockville 5th grade class

During a press conference at College Gardens Elementary School to discuss the state's efforts to provide healthy food for its students, University of Maryland, College Park farm management specialist Jim Hanson seemed astounded by the questions from the young reporters in the crowd.

"Would it help if we showed them the raw data? Would it help if we actually showed them what we're eating in school?" said fifth-grader Veeraj Majethia.

"We need you at the university," Hanson said.

Veeraj is one of more than 100 fifth-graders at the Rockville school that participated in the student press conference May 12 to learn about the benefits of eating locally produced food and Maryland's Jane Lawton Farm to School Program. The school organized the event with help from the Audubon Naturalist Society's GreenKids educational outreach program. The students had done their research and were ready with questions. Several months ago, Veeraj and classmate Josiah Belfon-Valentine, both of Rockville, set out to determine the nutritional value of dishes based on their ingredients served in their school cafeteria. Their findings were so staggering that Veeraj said he no longer eats food prepared there.

"We calculated the nutrition and learned a side of macaroni and cheese here has more calories than a Big Mac," Veeraj said. "It's 564 calories."

He and Josiah hope College Gardens and Montgomery County Public Schools will introduce more nutritious meal options and better lunch service in the future.

According to the Montgomery County Public School website, the lunch menu for elementary school students must include an "entree-vegetable combination with two sides and milk." A peanut butter and jelly pocket and grilled cheese pocket are also available for students. Vegetables can range from green beans and corn to French fries and tater tots. SOURCE: GazettePICTURE: Photos by Brian Lewis/The Gazette. Parent Carrie Witkop talks with fifth-grade students at College Gardens Elementary School in Rockville last week, as they learned about the state's Jane Lawton Farm to School Program.

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