Amarillo, TX - As childhood obesity grows in the state, the Texas Department of Agriculture is creating an initiative to bring healthier menu items back into school lunch programs.
The TDA Commissioner, Sid Miller, said changing the culture of school lunch rooms is something the department is really pushing for.
And today, he saw firsthand just how important this change is.
When it comes to lunch, high-schoolers are eager to escape the stresses of class and engage in the latest gossip or drama from first period.
"A lot of us do like having lunch because it's just a time to talk to our friends," Chandler Hayes, a sophomore at River Road High School, said.
Typically, if you remember high school, there was one entree served to you on your tray, whether you liked it or not. But not anymore.
Today, students are anxious to get to lunch for a different reason...the food.
"Amazing," Peyton Murff, a freshman at River Road, said. "It's amazing. Everything is fresh and it's perfect all the time."
The students said they owe it to the TDA, who's encouraging a healthy diet for all students with the power of choice.
"It's quality of health and quality of life," Miller said. "We have an epidemic in Texas of childhood obesity and juvenile diabetes continues to grow. And the gap gets wider and wider. So we are thinking outside the box at TDA, we are doing some things different. First thing we did was roll back the mandates and give some local control back to our local school boards and parents and teachers."
He said letting them make the decisions on what students wants to eat works, and River Road has fulfilled this vision. Students have access to sandwich stations, pizza stations, and salad bars, and it's all made to order with fresh produce.
"The students have told us that they lost weight on it and they just love it," Kim Terry, Food Service Director at River Road High School, said. "We have a huge line every day and I think too because they are able to make their own choices."
The hope is that all high schools in Texas can see the example River Road is setting and implement more choices to students.
The TDA said it's time to see healthy students, and not healthy trash cans.