FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — March is National Nutrition Month, and the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences says they’re in local schools increasing access to healthy foods.

A recent CDC study shows more than half of kids, have a sugar-sweetened drink, such as soda, every day, but not a fruit or vegetable.

This month, UAMS Community Health Workers, like Ally Mrachek, are offering healthy alternatives to local school lunch items in an effort to lower the amount of sodium and sugar kids consume each day.

Mrachek said districts using food companies to source their meals, such as Bentonville Public Schools and Lincoln Consolidated School District, often have access to nutritionists and chefs to help create their menus.

Although, she said having a nutritionist-backed menu may take more investment for districts such as Rogers Public Schools, Siloam Springs School District and Farmington Public Schools since they aren’t using an outside company. In this case, Mrachek said her staff helps those districts develop healthier recipes such as biscuits with less sodium or yogurt parfaits with less sugar.

“It doesn’t seem like it makes a big impact, but overtime, it can make a great impact in the amount of sugar in kids’ bodies,” Mrachek said. “Then they get used to the taste of foods that are low in sugar, and hopefully as adults are choosing foods that are less sweet,”

Mrachek said the key to kids eating their fruits and veggies is to keep putting them on their plates. She said research shows it takes 10 to 15 times before a kid might try it, so she wants parents and cafeteria workers to be persistent because changing kids’ eating habits takes time.