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Finding a balance:

Offered versus served. It's a valid point.

Parents may question the quality of food schools are serving, but it might just be the students that are picking the food to be concerned about.

Bonnie Mohs, family and consumer science teacher at Detroit Lakes High School, said the meal is only as healthy as the one students choose.

Mohs' students run the Laker Grill at DLHS and offer a variety of items from cheeseburgers and fries to yogurt, quesadillas and salad bar.

"It's a basic menu they thought people would buy," she said of how items on the menu are determined.

Food Services Manager at Frazee School, Rita Slupe, said the school offers a selection of foods.

"Students have to take three out of five items offered," she said.

The school is already following guidelines, she said, that the school must offer a meat product or substitute, bread, veggies and fruit at every lunch.

"Basically a well-rounded meal," she said.

In Frazee, there are three lines for food offered. One is whatever is on the menu for that day, a second is five meat choices and the rest of the food groups, and a third is a salad bar. The second options is the most popular she said.

The school menu depends on students' favorites and depends on available commodities from the government.

Having had her son, Tristan, diagnosed with food allergies rather than Attention Deficit Disorder, Jo Johnson of Detroit Lakes is looking to make other parents and the school system more aware.

Once she started watching her son's food intake at home and school, she began to see the lunch menus in a whole new light.

Besides food allergies, a healthier school lunch menu would help, she said. Something as simple as whole wheat pizza crusts. Or the choice of whole wheat bread for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Johnson may just be getting her wish -- to a degree anyway.

Detroit Lakes School District Business Manager Dick Lundeen is chairing a Wellness Committee. It is made up of students, parents and teachers, trying to determine good eating and exercise habits for the school. According to federal and state laws, all school districts are to have a wellness policy in place by the start of the 2006-07 school year.

"It's not just a lunch program, but nutrition education," he said.

Kids do know right from wrong, he said. The school district has seen a drop in pop sales and an increase in diet pop, fruit juice and water sales.

Mike Jacobson, a senior at Perham High School, said he feels his school lunches are healthy enough, just not big enough.

His deciding factor on whether to eat school lunch or go out to eat downtown is the size of what's being served.

"If you only get a corndog and piece of bread... That's when I go to the Pizza Ranch," he said. "I'd eat there (school) every day if they had bigger portions.

"I like the food, I just don't get enough to eat."

DLHS junior Erika Friesen said she, too, takes school lunch on a day-to-day basis, depending on what is being served and whether she likes it or not.

She said DLHS meals aren't as healthy as they could be, because they serve items like french fries every day. On the other hand, she said they do offer carrots and fruit.

At the Laker Grill, Mohs said she minimally marks up the prices of healthier food -- such as milk, Crystal Light and salad bar. Other products like french fries and taters are marked up much higher.

"It's our way of promoting healthy food," she said.

But supplying students and staff with another food option isn't the main point of Laker Grill. Mohs' class learns every aspect of working in a restaurant -- everything from cooking, serving, inventory, loss/profit reports and managerial duties.

"It's a springboard to getting a job in the future. It gives students an advantage," she said.

Next year with the wellness policy changes, Mohs and her students will have to sell their famous cookies one at a time, because unhealthy foods cannot be sold more than one ounce in a package.

Lundeen said the cookies aren't the only changes the school will see. One item that has been changed is low-calorie salad dressings.

"It's more expensive, but it's worth it," he said.

The wellness plan will also limit the less healthy foods in vending machines. In the elementary schools, where chocolate milk is popular, kids will instead drink skimmed chocolate milk.

"I really think we are going to make a difference," he said with the wellness policy. "I believe very strongly in this initiative, personally."

But it's not just about the food, he stressed. Exercise is a major part of the plan also. And by teaching students to live healthier lives while in school, they can hopefully carry on what they learned throughout adulthood.

"We need to find ways to reintroduce ourselves to exercise. Even if it's just walking," he said.

And while Lundeen said he feels Detroit Lakes' lunches are already healthy, he admits "there's always room for improvement."