MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Bad eating habits are out at and eating healthy is in at Memphis City Schools. One elementary school is leading the way with a classroom garden where kids learn how to grow their own food. It's a nutrition lesson for students after the USDA implemented strict guidelines on July 1, portions are smaller food is healthier.
The federal law mandates high school lunches must be less than 850 calories with less than 10 percent coming from saturated fat. That's why Grahamwood Elementary School in Berclair is setting the bar high when it comes to eating healthy. The school nutritionist says by the time students start high school, they'll make better food choices.
“We have oven roasted chicken and that's real chicken, unadulterated, it's not a nugget,” said Anthony Geraci, Executive Director of Nutrition for Memphis City Schools.
Much of the food the kids are eating, they grew themselves. Grahamwood Elementary School students have their own school garden where they learn how to plant food and then eat it like black eyed peas.
"The kids actually see where the food winds up so from the seed, to the plate, to the fork,” said Geraci.
More than 85 percent of Memphis City Schools students are on free or reduced lunch. That means for many, school is the only place where they'll get a chance to eat and MCS wants to make sure it's nutritious.
"We made a commitment to stop serving our kids carnival food. We wanted to start serving our kids real food,” Geraci told abc24 news.
Geraci says chips, soda, and a slice of pizza can quickly add to 2,000 calories and still leave a child hungry.
"Often the calories that we take in are empty calories, they're void of nutrition. What we're trying to do the calories that we're serving are nutrient dense so they're giving the kids energy,” he said.
The food make over is such a big deal PBS is making a documentary about it. Grahamwood Elementary School was the first Memphis school with a food garden. Now there are about 20 school gardens established or in the works across the city.