Lawmakers could require schools to offer more healthy snacks |

Lawmakers could require schools to offer more healthy snacks


DENVER ” The vending machines at Lamar High School offer a mix of Pepsi, Gatorade, juice and water. But two years after officials decided to offer more healthy snacks, the fruit roll-ups and peanut butter and cracker packages are still outnumbered by candy bars, brownies and potato chips.

Principal Allan Medina said it’s difficult to find nutritious snacks in vending-sized packages, though he’s hopeful things might change if schools are required to offer more of them.

In 2004, state lawmakers passed a bill encouraging schools to make sure half of all vending machine items were nutritious. On Thursday, a House committee will consider making that mandatory by 2008 (House Bill 1056).

Schools’ current contracts with vendors wouldn’t be affected but any deal signed after 2008 would have to meet the 50-50 requirement. Co-sponsor Sen. Deanna Hanna, D-Lakewood, said many students have health problems because they are obese and lawmakers want to ensure that students have healthier choices available.

“If they want to eat junk food, they can still eat junk food,” she said.

Hanna said the measure does not violate constitutional requirements that lawmakers not interfere in local control by school boards.

“We elect school board members to decide how students are educated, not what they eat,” she said.

Current state law says nutritious snacks and drinks include milk, water, sports drinks, nuts, seeds and dried fruit. Non-nutritious food are those items that contain more than 35 percent of total calories from fat ” with more than 10 percent of those calories from saturated fat ” and more than 35 percent of their total weight in sugar.

Many schools count on vending machine contracts for extra money. Medina said the changes they’ve made in Lamar haven’t caused a drop in sales. Pepsi stocked the beverage machines with their own line of juices and water.

Under the contract, Pepsi supplies the school’s athletic teams with Gatorade and gives about $1,500 a year to help pay for the student yearbook. The school also gets a cut of the vending machine sales.

There’s still one problem: The school has an open campus and during lunch the school’s 430 student can go to fast-food outlets and bring back sugary drinks.

“We can control what happens here but when they leave our campus it’s hard to control what they’re doing,” Medina said.

Also this week:

” On Monday, the House Agriculture Committee is scheduled to consider a measure to ensure that six of the state’s 14,000-foot peaks remain open to hikers. Currently, they include private property and the owners want to be protected from lawsuits. (House Bill 1049)

” Hospitals would be required to report infection rates under a measure scheduled for a hearing before the House Health and Human Services Committee on Monday (House Bill 1045)

” The Senate Local Government Committee plans to review two dog-related bills on Tuesday. One would set up a statewide ban on dangerous dogs (Senate Bill 25) and the other would allow local regulation of dangerous breeds. (Senate Bill 54)

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