Schools takes proactive approach to nutrition
BRECKENRIDGE – Summit School District isn’t waiting for the national trend of kids’ obesity to weigh heavily upon it. It’s taking preventive measures.Last Wednesday, the district’s board of education held a public meeting at Breckenridge Elementary to discuss ways to provide healthier food to students. It is the first of three public discussions addressing issues in the school district. On Feb. 9, the board will host a discussion on substance abuse in youth, and on March 9, it will discuss the possibility of a dual-language program.Dr. Garrett Sullivan opened the discussion saying that though Colorado is one of the least obese states in the nation, it, too, is succumbing to the trend of obesity.Nationwide, families have moved away from daily homecooked meals and toward industrial food preparation. That food is cheaper, more processed and more abundant than food in other countries, which contributes to unhealthy eating patterns, he said.If a high school student graduates obese, the youth stands an 80 percent chance of remaining obese for the rest of his or her life, he said, adding that good nutrition begins at home and continues at school.
The common observation that a majority of Summit students, parents and teachers are not overweight support district health coordinator Natalie Boyer in her conclusion that Summit students arent as bad as the national average.A Sept. 29 screening of seventh graders lends evidence to her observation: Out of 222 students, 15 (or about 6 percent) are overweight; 23 (or just more than 10 percent) are at risk for being overweight; and seven are underweight, said Bobbi Gillis, Summit Middle School nurse. That compares to the national statistic that 16 percent of children are overweight, according to a new book by Floyd H. Chilton, a professor of physiology and pharmacology who published Inflammation Nation this month.According to statistics in Morgan Spurlocks documentary, Super Size Me, which the board showed a segment of at the meeting, 400,000 people die annually from obesity, which is second only to smoking in preventable causes of death.But physical health isnt the only reason to encourage kids to eat healthy.Studies show when kids satisfy their basic nutritional needs, they earn higher test scores and better concentration, Boyer said.
In fall 2002, the school district began looking at ways to make school food offerings healthier. A task force visited other schools, surveyed local students and recommended that the board increase classroom education on nutrition, offer more fresh fruit and vegetables and eliminate sodas. The district took fast foods such as Dominos and Subway out of school lunch offerings and hired Chartwells, a food-service program, to bring in more healthy alternatives last school year.Since then, schools have faced challenges including maintaining fresh produce and interesting students in healthier eating alternatives, assistant superintendent Peg Kastberg said.We all want Subway and Dominos back, said student adviser and eighth-grader Hayden Hedman.In addition, a contract with Pepsi that runs through 2008 prevents the district from taking soda out of vending machines in schools.To complicate matters, commissions from Pepsi product sales contribute $50,000 to $60,000 annually to the districts athletic programs, school district nurse Holly Tompkins said.This year, the district hired a new food service director, Lyza Brackett to address some of the issues.She plans to make menu and vending machine changes, as well as train food service staff to provide fresh food. Menu changes include heart-healthy and vegetarian options, whole-wheat bread and rice, baked (not fried) foods, homemade soups, ground turkey instead of beef, low-fat cheese and fresh produce. She also hopes to encourage fundraisers that sell healthy food instead of candy and cookies.Recently, middle and high school officials began to replace their dry vending machines with healthier options such as nuts, seeds and granola bars, Tompkins said. They plan to exceed the guidelines in Gov. Bill Owens Senate Bill 04-103, which encourages districts to fill vending machines with at least 50 percent of healthy options.
The board invited community members the meeting because it sees nutrition as a community issue, Tompkins said.Small groups discussed challenges and improvements related to school nutrition.Challenges include:- Educating parents and convincing students and teachers to make healthy choices;- Teaching cooking skills;- Eliminating fundraisers that sell junk food; – Classroom incentives involving sweets;- Changing the perception that eating healthy is more expensive and time consuming; and – Dealing with the fact that schools receive revenue from soda sales in vending machines.Improvements involved goals to meet challenges. Some people also suggested offering breakfast to high school students, taking away elementary students choices during lunch, providing organic food and giving nutrition tips of the week.Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 245, or at email@example.com.
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