However, the Fulton County School System has been working for the past several years to benefit students’ health, in the cafeteria and beyond.
“This year, when the new law went into effect, it wasn’t a big deal for the Fulton County School System. We’ve never let deals or acts dictate what we need to do take care of kids,” said Lynne Meadows, the district’s coordinator of student health services.
In light of American Diabetes Month, which is November, she said the 20 nurses throughout the system are continuing to stay educated on the condition.
“Diabetes is something my nurses have always been trained in and have always been on top of,” said Meadows, who was named the Georgia Association of School Nurses’ school nurse administrator of the year for 2011-12. “They work in collaboration with cafeteria managers and the nutrition department to make sure kids who have allergies and diet restrictions have the proper diet and proper care plans on site in school. They know exactly what their physicians expect.”
In lieu of the new law, Meadows said a few improvements and tools were added, such as detailed diabetes training with the more than 800 bus drivers in the district.
“It was about how to recognize medical emergencies,” she said. “We want them to remember if you have kids on your bus that are diabetic, they can have highs and lows. There are symptoms to look for.”
In regard to nutrition in the schools, Executive Director of School Nutrition Alyssia Wright said the school nurses help the nutrition department stay up to date on carbohydrates information for the use of diabetic students’ dietary accommodations.
“We have registered dieticians on staff for students requiring special diets,” Wright said.
The district started making nutrition changes in the cafeterias before the act came into play, she said, including adding 1 percent and nonfat milk, more whole grains and dark greens to the menus.
“For some time, menus have been free of trans fat,” Wright said.
She said the most significant change this year is larger portions of fruits and veggies, along with the requirement to put at least one fruit or vegetable onto a lunch plate. The district added brown rice to the menus, and they also changed the placement of the fruits and vegetables on the serving line, from the end to the beginning. “They’ve responded well,” Wright said. “Our benefit is we offer such a variety of fruits and vegetables.”
The system participates in the national Farm to School program, featuring a locally (or regionally) grown fruit or vegetables on menus throughout each month. “Our focus is on putting students first,” Wright said. “Evidence clearly shows that nutrition and health are linked to academic success.”