Balanced Nutrition, Better Behaved Kids

The Early Show, CBS News Correspondent Jane Clayson reports, Melrose Elementary in Tampa, Florida, school lunch

To look at what's being served in school these days, you'd think the kids were creating the menus.

In too many of America's school cafeterias the major food groups are sugar, starch and fat.

"Those are exactly the things they're eating in school because they're cheap and easy to prepare, and they know that kids will eat them," says Dr. Henry Anhalt, a childhood obesity specialist.

He says a typical school lunch menu piles on an extra 370 calories a week.

"I think we need to recognize that it's not only the impact of the calories on the children that's bad but the important messages that they're getting in schools," says Anhalt.

But, as CBS News Correspondent Jane Clayson reports, Melrose Elementary in Tampa, Florida is sending a different message. Two years ago they completely overhauled their menu to meet USDA standards, not only for calories, but balanced nutrition: something most school don't even come close to.

Rob Spangler pulled his son Ian out of his old school and enrolled him at Melrose, specifically for the lunch program. His concern wasn't just his son's weight.

"It was having a tremendous effect on his personality," says Spangler. "He was becoming loud, he was becoming aggressive at home."

It turns out the recipe of less sugar and fewer empty calories has had some unexpected benefits.

"It's amazing, and when you talk to the children today you'll see the changes it's made, and they're happier," says Melrose principal Susan Graham.

And it's not just about becoming healthier eaters. Here, teachers are taking advantage of the lunchroom, turning it into a classroom. The lesson is better behavior.

The behavior is worthy of a restaurant. Principal Graham calls the cafeteria the "Melrose Diner."

The children self monitor their behavior.

A traffic light signals them when they're getting too loud. Just like in the adult world, yellow means slow down.

Thank you for using your indoor voices.

And red means stop. The sound of silence may say more about the effects of good nutrition than anything.

The kids say they're learning manners and how to eat right.

If more kids don't learn this simple lesson, experts say, half our nation's children will be obese by 2030.

Part 1: When Calories Are On The Curriculum

Part 3: Bariatric Surgery: It's All The Rage