USDA Helps DCS Make Lunchrooms “Smarter” as Students Head Back to Class Grant

Alex Hallmark, Child Nutrition Director

USDA Helps DCS Make Lunchrooms “Smarter” as Students Head Back to Class Grant

Alex Hallmark, Child Nutrition Director

USDA Helps DCS Make Lunchrooms “Smarter” as Students Head Back to Class Grant

Alex Hallmark, Child Nutrition Director

     As students begin a new school year, many will find that they are offered healthy meals and snacks at DeSoto County Schools.  Nineteen DCS schools that serve both breakfast and lunch received Smarter Lunchroom Grants, according to the USDA.

     Child Nutrition Director Alex Hallmark applied for the HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC), a voluntary program that provides financial awards to schools that choose to take steps to encourage kids to make heathy choices and be more physically active. HUSSC certifies schools that meet specific criteria at four award levels: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Gold Award of Distinction.

     “We had 19 schools recognized—13 received $4,000 for attaining the Silver Award Level, and 5 earned $2,000 for reaching the Bronze Award Level. All 19 schools earned a plaque and a banner that designates their school has a ‘Smarter Lunchroom’ designation,” Hallmark said.    

Smarter Lunchroom Grant Recipients

     Smarter Lunchrooms is a set of best practices that have been shown to help encourage kids to make healthy choices.  By using environmental cues such as better product placement and using creative names for healthier foods, these practical, research-based techniques increase student selection of healthier items and reduce plate waste.    

     “The majority of our students like healthier meals,” said Hallmark.  “Our goal is to increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables.  Our snacks at school will offer students more whole grains, fruits and vegetables, leaner protein, lower-fat dairy—while decreasing foods with excessive amounts of added sugar, solid fats, and sodium.”

     Part of the awarded funds have been used to purchase bagging/sealing systems for every school.  “Sliced apples, oranges, carrots, and fresh local cucumbers are bagged and sealed,” explained Hallmark. “If a student does not want to eat the produce at lunch, it can go into a backpack for a healthy snack later.”   

     The Silver Award Schools are Chickasaw Elementary, Greenbrook Elementary, Hope Sullivan Elementary, Horn Lake Elementary, Horn Lake Intermediate, Lake Cormorant Elementary, Olive Branch Elementary, Olive Branch Intermediate, Overpark Elementary, Shadow Oaks Elementary, Southaven Elementary, Southaven Intermediate, and Walls Elementary.

     The Bronze Award Schools are Center Hill Elementary, Hernando Elementary, Hernando Hills Elementary, Lewisburg Elementary, Lewisburg Primary, and Oak Grove Central Elementary.