LA CROSSE, Wis. -- Childhood obesity continues to be a growing concern in America. In fact, in La Crosse County one in three kids are overweight.
With the school year well under way, the La Crosse district has made some changes to their menu to help promote healthier eating habits. This has been a work in progress for the past couple of years for the district. What they've looked into is how to incorporate those healthy options but also making them tasty for kids.
"I think it's important to start with the school lunch menu because so many kids get the majority of their calories for the day from their school lunch," said Maggie Smith, health educator, La Crosse County. "If they're eating both breakfast and lunch at school, that's two of their big meals for the day."
Smith says because one in three children are overweight in La Crosse County, things may only get worse if changes aren't made.
"This generation of children, it could possibly be the first generation to lead a shorter life span than their parents which is something that hasn't happened before and this generation is at risk for shorter lives," said Smith.
The La Crosse school district is one of many in the community revamping their school lunch menus to help curb trend.
"We're also incorporating more legumes, beans and low fat items to help lower the total fat content in the meals and then to also increase the nutritional content in the quality," said Joni Ralph, nutrition director, La Crosse school district.
Working to really incorporate a variety of fruits and veggies into the menu is one thing but getting kids to eat it is also a challenge.
"Students need to want to come in and eat the meals and so eating the meals has to have some palitablity to it," said Ralph. "One of the things that I hope we are doing is giving students enough variety and choices so that they will find something on that menu in that particular day in the fruit and vegetable area that they really want to eat."
The district has also switched to reduced-sugar and whole grain cereal options but one looming concern is the nutrition benefits and the sugar intake of chocolate milk. In this district, it's still on the menu.
"We know that when chocolate milk isn't offered the consumption drops by about 30-percent and so in order to encourage that that's why we want to keep that option available," said Ralph.
The district is hoping the changes they've made will spark a change outside of the lunchroom as well. They're hoping that if students see healthy options offered at school this will affect their decisions they make throughout the rest of the day and incorporate it into their daily routine.
La Crosse school district is also incorporating more locally grown foods into their menus through the "Farm to School Program" where students learn about where the food comes from in addition to its nutritional value.