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USDA Admin Commends Bell's Hill for Food Program Efforts

Bell's Hill Elementary school in Waco is getting high-needs students to eat healthier and learn about where their food comes from. Today a U.S. Department of Agriculture administrator stopped by to tour the school and check out the school’s lunch program. 

Bell's Hill Elementary includes fresh fruits and vegetables and five entrée options on their lunch menu. They also have a universal free breakfast and an after school program that provides snacks for students. It’s an approach that attracted the attention of Audrey Rowe, the administrator of Food and Nutrition Services with the US Department of Agriculture. She’s in town for the Texas Hunger Initiative’s poverty summit.

“This environment is unique because this whole school is a unique environment," Rowe said. "And how they’ve integrated what they are doing in the school cafeteria, in the school garden, into the academics. And making sure the students are having a rounded experience.”

97.9-percent of Bell's Hill students are on free or reduced lunches. Rowe was interested in the unique approaches the school is taking towards their meal programs -- and how they were handling school meal changes under Michelle Obama’s Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act. That program overhauled school lunches to make them healthier.

Students also learn how plants grow in a hands-on environment. The school has a garden and greenhouse they incorporate into science lessons. Bell's Hill Principal Bevil Cohn says in addition to getting healthy meals, students learn about what they’re growing and are later served what they’ve grown.  

“We’re teaching children about how to raise plants that they could be eating later on," Cohn said.  "And making healthy choices. It’s just a normal part of our day. To talk about good food and the things we need to do.”

Rowe commended the work and innovation of the staff. She said the school’s efforts to create options like a gluten-free menu are something she would like to see across the nation.

“I see this school being a model... one of the models on what is happening around the nation," Rowe said. "I mean being able to visit and then hold up some of the ideas and then share them with some of the other school districts.” 

Rowe will be a guest speaker tonight during the Texas Hunger Initiative’s Poverty Summit at Baylor. She’s set to speak at 5:30.