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Where's the beef, some students were asking

By Greg Gelpi

Sometimes not having meat with school lunch is a good thing as some lucky area children learned Monday.

Kicking off a week of festivities, Church Street Elementary spiced up lunch with their "Meatless Bun" contest, one in a series of events during National School Lunch Week.

Children unexpectedly walked through the lunch line as usual Monday, but a few were startled when they reached the lunch table.

Taking a bite of their burgers, they were alarmed to discover no meat. Upon reporting their discovery to the cafeteria workers, they learned that they won prizes as part of the school's "Meatless Bun" contest.

"It's funny to watch the kids' faces," Cafeteria Manager Donna King said. King, who organized the event, has worked in cafeterias for 18 years, including the past six years at Church Street.

"We try to be involved with what the kids are doing," she said.

"Wild about School Lunch Week" also featured second graders' drawings displayed in the cafeteria along with large paper cutouts of animals eating covering the walls.

"We like the cafeteria to be a fun experience," School Nutrition Director Jane Lofton said, adding "Our goal is to put out a healthy meal for students."

In that school alone, students and faculty used two cases of mustard and ketchup for that one meal as a staff of 12 fed a class every 2-3 minutes and a total of 852 children.

Clayton County Public Schools feed 83 percent of its student population, as compared to the state average of 73 percent, Lofton said.

Hard enough preparing breakfast for a house full of children, cafeteria workers throughout the county arrive around 6 a.m. to cook breakfast for hundreds of children.

Minutes later they turn around and prepare for the lunch rush.

The school system in the county feeds about 12,000 children breakfast and 41,000 children lunch and another 2,000 faculty under an $8 million budget.

On milk alone, the county spends $9,300 each day. Interim Superintendent William Chavis signed a proclamation making this week National School Lunch Week in Clayton County as well.