Schools to give kids healthy alternatives
At the Craig City Pool concession stand, customers can choose from a wide selection of chips, candy and ice cream.
Does anyone want a healthy choice?
“No, nobody does,” said employee Katie Morris, 16. “We had a sign up for four days saying we had string cheese, but we never sold any.”
At maximum capacity, the concession stand at the City Pool can bring in more than $700 in sales. It can be argued that, even at 30 grams of fat per bag, the buttered popcorn is the healthiest choice available. The selection includes a wide variety of candies as well as ice cream bars and pop.
Lawmakers think that’s one of the reasons that youth obesity is blossoming out of control. Being overweight is now the most common medical condition of childhood, suffered by an estimated 9 million young people in the United States.
Lawmakers argue that the only way for youths to make healthy choices is to give them something healthy to choose.
House Majority leader Alice Madden, D-Boulder, and Sen. Paula Sandoval, D-Denver, sponsored a bill that requires school districts to provide healthful food choices and nutritional information and create wellness policy.
It passed in March.
The bill identifies schools as the key in educating students about nutrition and fitness and should take the lead in providing healthy choices.
Schools are encouraged to:
Make healthy meals available in school cafeterias and students should be given adequate time to eat.
Provide healthy items in vending machines.
Provide healthy items as part of fund-raisers, classroom parties and rewards in school.
Give every student access to fresh fruits and vegetables at appropriate times during the school day.
Give every student access to age-appropriate and culturally sensitive instruction designed to teach lifeline healthy eating habits and a healthy level of physical activity.
Give every student and his or her parents access to information concerning the nutritional content of all food offered at the school, including snacks.
Judy Baker, director of food service for Moffat County School District, doesn’t expect the new law to have much effect on schools — though the high school’s store may have to start carrying healthier items, and Craig Middle School students may no longer have the option to buy ice cream at the snack bar.
“I think that’s stupid because it should be people’s choice if they want to eat that stuff,” eighth-grader Jordan Maneotis said.
She said the decision wouldn’t have much effect on her — she doesn’t buy ice cream often anyway — but still thinks others should be able to.
Baker said the district’s first step will be to call together a team to create a districtwide wellness policy. The policy would address things such as the items allowed to be offered as snacks in classrooms and lunchrooms. In fact, Baker said, it will address all food offered in any school.
“It will provide a better tool for people to know what’s available when kids are in school,” Baker said. “More information is always better.”
What it could mean is that the district limits what parents bring as snacks. Cupcakes for birthdays may be prohibited. They could be limited to only being available in the afternoon or they could be offered only in conjunction with a healthy choice. The policy could limit the times that snack bars — such as the high school store — are open. There’s just no way to know now what parameters the school district will establish, Baker said.
“They want to have it so that kids are offered items so that they can make good choices when they’re in a situation where they can choose their food,” Baker said.
The new law won’t likely affect the school lunch program, she said. The district already follows federal guidelines that limit fat and sodium content of meals and establish a minimum number of calories. Baker said the department is still working to get a handle on the new food pyramid and is waiting for the state to issue its guidelines.
The district’s wellness policy also will take physical education opportunities into consideration.
“It’s not so much the food, it’s the quantity of physical activity, too,” Baker said.
The policy will only restrict what’s being offered at the schools, it cannot limit what students bring for themselves
“There will be a lot of things we have to look at,” Baker said. “My opinion is they will give students and parents the opportunity to make choices themselves. I’m not saying we won’t limit some things, but I can’t see the district being very strict.”
Morris is another student who’s not worried that changes will affect her.
“I eat at school, but during sports, I pack my own lunch,” she said. “I feel healthier when I eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich instead of a big thing of cheesy nachos.”
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