• 84°

Steamed goodness: School district receiving steamers

Frazier Elementary School cafeteria employee Shirley Adams takes pizza out of the school’s steamer ovens. Frazier has been using the ovens for the past seven years. Natchez High School and West Elementary, which were the last two schools in the Natchez-Adams School District to still use fryers, have also transitioned to the use of steamer ovens. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

Frazier Elementary School cafeteria employee Shirley Adams takes pizza out of the school’s steamer ovens. Frazier has been using the ovens for the past seven years. Natchez High School and West Elementary, which were the last two schools in the Natchez-Adams School District to still use fryers, have also transitioned to the use of steamer ovens. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

By Sarah Cook

The Natchez Democrat

NATCHEZ The Natchez-Adams County School District will soon be completely free of deep-fat fryers.

Natchez High School and Susie B. West Elementary will switch from fryers to steamers sometime during the 2015-2016 school year, completing the district-wide initiative.

Funds to support the changeover come from a Nutrition Integrity grant, sponsored by the Bower Foundation.

“Half of the money (to replace the fryers) will come from the school system and the other half will be matched by the grant,” explained Shantoura Spears, child nutrition supervisor for the district.

Cafeteria manager at Frazier Elementary School Juanella Lyles prepares food before putting it into the school’s steam ovens. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

Cafeteria manager at Frazier Elementary School Juanella Lyles prepares food before putting it into the school’s steam ovens. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

The steamers feature super-heated steam, which allow cafeteria staff to cook with less saturated and trans fats. Each steamer costs about $16,000.

“This will create more healthy meals for the children,” said Spears, adding that students and parents have embraced the switch.

Currently ranked number one in the country for obesity, Mississippi has a long way to go in terms of health initiatives in schools, Spears said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 15 percent of children in the state were categorized as obese — meaning their body mass index was at or above the 95th percentile.

According to the Mississippi Department of Health, obesity in children and adults is a leading health concern in the state — and contributes to major chronic disease killers like diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers.

Currently offering healthy lunch and breakfast options like tossed salad, vegetables, and fruit, the Natchez High cafeteria menu also boasts entrees like bacon cheeseburgers, corn dogs, pizza and a “cheesy chicken fiesta over rice.”

Spears said lunch and breakfast options will not change in the 2015-2016 school year.

“With this new equipment, our goal is to make our school breakfasts and lunches as healthy as possible so that our students are fit, healthy and ready to succeed,” Spears said.