Clay County aims for healthy food habits

School district offers exercise challenges for students, along with healthy food

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – Thousands of Clay County students returned for their first day of school Monday.

Administrators are working to increase brain power with every meal by offering healthier options for their students this school year.

The school district serves more than 4 million meals each school year, and it goes above and beyond what's required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.

"The USDA requires that we offer a fresh fruit and vegetable every day, but Clay County has done a great job offering a variety to the students," dietitian Elise Fenstermaker said. "We have tons of fresh fruits and vegetables. Everything from zucchini (and) squash to fresh broccoli flowerets."

Clay County schools are keeping it healthy with fresh fruits and vegetables from local growers, including fresh apples. They also offer mini-pro products, like chicken nuggets, that are a minimally-processed with no soy, no dairy and no dry egg.

Outside of the lunch tray, Clay County schools offer nutrition and exercise challenges each month, where students complete a fitness activity and try a healthier food option.

"Each month, if the kids complete the nutrition and exercise challenge, they are entered into a drawing to win a bike or Razor scooter at the end of the school year," said Fenstermaker, who is the food service coordinator for Clay County.

Paterson Elementary School principal John O'Brian said healthy habits start in the classroom with young students.

"Eating healthy promotes success and focus and academic achievement," O'Brian said. "Laying a foundation for people to make good choices is imperative."

For more information on the Clay County school district's health initiatives and for a list of the district's lunch menus, go to http://oneclay.net/food-service