Your Health: Snacking smartly in Northwest Colorado | CraigDailyPress.com

Your Health: Snacking smartly in Northwest Colorado

Area schools offer new snack options

Soroco High School sophomore Sarvis Anarella, 15, uses the school's new Human brand healthy vending machine Tuesday afternoon. The machine dispenses healthy foods and is used as a teaching tool for the Future Business Leaders of America club.

The battle for healthier dietary habits in students is ongoing at schools across America, including those in Northwest Colorado.

Requirements for foods served within schools as passed by United States Department of Agriculture earlier this year have had an impact on what kids can purchase on campus. Moffat County High School's school store, run by Distributive Education Clubs of America and Future Business Leaders of America, is stocked with items designated as Smart Snacks, heavy in fruit, whole grains and other healthy content.

Adviser Krista Schenck said the inventory is calculated through the Colorado Department of Education website to determine if the nutritional data is acceptable. Things like potato chips and cookies are still allowed but need to be lower in fat, sugar, sodium and other substances that are often loaded into snacks.

The trouble is there have been few takers for these healthier items, with many students bringing their own snacks to school.

"We sell a lot of water, but we are definitely not selling snacks like we used to," Schenck said.

She added that she has looked into different options for the store's stock to find foods both healthy and appealing to students.

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"We just haven't found that magic item yet," she said.

Schenck pointed to a development at another area school that she believes might work well in MCHS.

Students at Soroco High School said goodbye to candy bars and junk food-filled vending machines during the summer and now make their snack selections from an interactive, healthy snack dispenser.

The new Human brand healthy vending machine was purchased by the South Routt School District for $9,000, funded through a Colorado Department of Education grant that also brought in Health and Wellness Coordinator Kristi Brown, who splits her time between schools in South Routt and Hayden.

"We have been pleasantly surprised with the student response," said Brown, who helped bring the new vending machine to campus. "It’s such a beautiful machine."

The refrigerated vending machine offers students fruit, yogurt and other snacks with lower calories and more nutritional value than previous machines on campus. The need to revamp school snacks was prompted by USDA, which imposed new guidelines for school snacks, effective July 1.

Last spring, Brown did taste tests of healthy foods with students in South Routt and Hayden, surveying students about which snacks they would prefer to have on campus.

Some of those selections are in Soroco’s new vending machine, depending on availability from the companies the school uses to stock it.

Above the machine is a video monitor, outfitted with 300 slides displaying educational information about health, nutrition, fitness and drug use, which Brown organized during the summer.

"I chose this machine because of the option for the educational component," Brown said.

Students at Soroco High School on Tuesday afternoon were visiting the machine frequently for after-lunch snacks and drinks.

"I didn’t really get anything from the last (vending machine), and now I do," sophomore Sarvis Anarella said.

Anarella said he is health conscious and a vegetarian, so he appreciates having healthier options for snacks.

"It’s different. I like it better," he said.

The most popular item among students were Izze brand carbonated juice drinks, which sell for $1 each. The drinks are 70 percent fruit juice and much lower in calories than most sodas.

The school purchases the food to stock the vending machine itself, rather than using a vending company, and the school's FBLA uses the process as a teaching tool and fundraiser, according to club adviser Randy Homan.

Homan said club members restock the machine each day and record inventory, and profits are used for FBLA and other campus clubs.

"I use it like every day, when I have the money," freshman Colton Stroup said. "It’s pretty good — the muffins are definitely a big seller. It’s definitely a lot healthier, which is important, especially for America right now."

Schenck said the greater options inside the school might pay off if such a system were put in place in Craig, but the temptations from other stores would still remain, depending on kids' personal budgets.

"You could either buy an apple here or a Red Bull at Kum & Go, so it's a hard economic decision for kids to make," she said.

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com.

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow