Schools’ deep fat fryers replaced with oven-steamers

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 10, 2010

NATCHEZ — High-fat tater tots and fried chicken are a thing of the past for four local school cafeterias.

Thanks to four grants of $38,000 from the Mississippi Department of Education and the Office of Healthy Schools, the deep fat fryers have been replaced with a combination oven-steamer at four Natchez-Adams School District cafeterias, Child Nutrition Program Director Dan Hogan said.

“School meals are one of the most important ways to ensure that our students are fit, healthy and ready to succeed in the classroom,” Hogan said. “Children will be able to enjoy baked entrées, as well as healthier versions of vegetables, breads and many other dishes.”

But for the children, it’s all about taste — and the cool factor.

Waiting for Friday’s lunch in McLaurin Elementary School’s cafeteria, Paul Hargrave, 9, said he liked Thursday’s barbecue rib patties.

“It was the bomb,” he said. “And the rolls were off the chain.”

Skylur Foster, 10, said cafeteria food isn’t always her favorite, but she really likes the pizza, and the pizza makes up for the other bad meals.

McLaurin Cafeteria Manager Brenda Bath said the new ovens were allowing her to prepare better food she hoped the children would enjoy.

“This is a state of the art piece of equipment,” she said. “It has upgraded the quality of our mass quantity food in our cafeteria.”

She said the pancakes and waffles no longer come out like a brick and the biscuits and rolls have gone over really well.

Hogan said the new steamer ovens, which substantially reduce the fat and calorie intake of students, will help cafeteria workers serve nutritious and delicious breakfasts and lunches.

The grants for the program were made possible by $1.7 million from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, $400,000 from U.S. Department of Agriculture and additional Bower Foundation funding.

“Installing new kitchen equipment and lower-fat cooking techniques are just two of the many ways that the Natchez-Adams School District is focusing on the health of students,” Hogan said. “When children are well-nourished and physically fit, they are better able to pay attention in class and do well on tests.”

Morgantown Elementary School, McLaurin Elementary School, Frazier Primary School and Robert Lewis Middle School received the new ovens.