33 schools recognized for breakfast, lunch participation

LAWRENCEVILLE -- The Georgia Department of Education recently recognized 33 Gwinnett County schools whose number of students who chose to eat breakfast or lunch at school during the 2007-08 school year was higher than the state average.

Gwinnett's breakfast participation earned 20 schools a Certificate of Accomplishment from the state DOE, as they each surpassed the state breakfast participation rate of 34 percent. A group of 27 Gwinnett schools also were recognized for exceeding the state's average of 75 percent for that year's lunch participation.

While most of the recognized schools have a high percentage of students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals, Ken Yant, the school system's director of nutrition, said there are a variety of reasons why the schools have a higher-than-average participation in the school breakfast and lunch programs.

"It's a testament to what the school nutrition staff in these schools are doing," Yant said. "They're providing good customer service and appealing meals that students choose to eat."

Through Gwinnett County Public Schools' Nutrition Education and Training (NEAT) project, a program implemented at each school, the district is continuously working to educate its students about making healthy choices, according to a news release. As part of those efforts, the school system serves a vegetarian line and also offers all-natural products, providing students a larger selection of items from which to choose.

"We try to keep the menu fresh and retail-oriented," Yant said.

In the last several years, the school district has experienced a steady increase of students who participate in the school nutrition program, the news release states. The percentage of students who eat breakfast at school has increased from 27.3 percent in 2006-07 to 33.9 percent this year. The percentage of students who eat school lunch has increased from 77.2 percent in 2006-07 to 81.1 percent this year.

This year, 117 Gwinnett schools serve breakfast daily, while 118 serve lunch.