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Lunch packs new Crunch

March 12, 1998

By CLYDE FORD

Staff Writer, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Students at T.A. Lowery Elementary School buzzed with excitement about lunch Thursday as they waited for a critter called Crunchy to arrive.

School lunches, once a staple of childhood jokes, have become a daily event to look forward to for the children here as school officials promote a nutrition program called Crunchy's Choice.

T.A. Lowery is one of 12 schools across the state participating in the program designed to encourage children to eat foods prepared with lower sodium, sugar and fat, said Principal Karen Stroup.

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The state provided a $500 grant to pay for the training, stickers for the children and posters promoting the program.

Stroup and others have learned to "market" the foods to children.

Students who pick the items listed as Crunchy's Choice often are rewarded with a sticker to wear or get their hand stamped, she said.

A school worker dresses up in a costume as Crunchy, described as a cross between a beaver, a bear and a gopher. The costume was made by Tina Spring, a parent, Stroup said.

The program started about two weeks ago. Stroup said the state started the pilot program because studies have shown many children do not eat properly.

Stroup said nutrition information is presented not just in the cafeteria, but in the classrooms. Teachers explain the basic food groups as part of their course work, she said.

Anna Gray, head cook at T.A. Lowery, said the school has always tried to provide the children with nutritious meals.

She said many of the Crunchy's Choice items are foods the school has always served, but are prepared with lower salt, fat and sugar.

"For the most part, they're trying the Crunchy's," Gray said.

Crunchy's Choice items on Thursday's menu included lasagna and salad.

Aissa Diehl, 7, a second-grader, said she usually picks the Crunchy's Choice items, but went for the chicken nuggets instead on Thursday.

"I had lasagna last night," she said.

Rosio Russo, 8, also a second-grader, said she thinks the program will work.

"It'll probably get kids to eat healthy food," Russo said.

"I just pick what looks good," said second-grader Taylor Mendzela, 7.

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