Summit County High school students making healthy choices
SUMMIT COUNTY – As a freshman at Summit High School, Spencer Hebert already knows the importance of nutrition, exercise and developing good habits early on.His dad is a chiropractor and he has grown up with cabinets stocked full of healthy options in this county that values active recreation.”I want to show kids what’s healthy because I know most kids don’t eat the best of foods,” said Spencer, 15, of Summit Cove. In fact, he recently won an essay contest on the subject and is entered in a national competition.And while all Summit County students may not share Spencer’s healthy practices, they are clearly beating the national statistics for childhood obesity, officials said.
“Our obesity rates are much lower than the state and national average,” said Natalie Boyer, district health coordinator, who had that confirmed through a pilot study of childhood obesity that a Colorado university previously conducted.On top of that, the schools are working even harder to help students make nutritious choices. About a year ago, the school board passed a wellness policy with the goal of improving nutrition in the school environment. For example, at least 50 percent of snacks and what’s offered should be nutritious, Boyer said.Lyza Brackett, food service director, added, a stigma surrounds school foods, but in Summit County healthy vending machine choices and diverse options including vegetarian meals exist.The schools have worked throughout this year to implement the policy that came about because of federal legislation aimed to combat the rising issue of childhood obesity and the diseases such as hypertension and diabetes that tag along with it.According to the American Obesity Association, obesity among youth has increased dramatically throughout the past two decades. Nationally, about 30 percent of children ages 6 to 19 are overweight and about 15 percent are obese. The prevalence of obesity in youth quadrupled during 25 years, according to the association.
Also, in 1980, American adolescents averaged a body mass index of 5 percent, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Today, that number is higher than 17 percent.In Summit County, however, while the school district doesn’t have exact numbers, they know childhood obesity is not even nearing these statistics.”Our kids are probably more physically active and that has to do with the community and culture,” Boyer said.Four schools in the district, the high school, middle school, Upper Blue Elementary and Silverthorne Elementary, all have health teams of staff and community members who work on promoting physical activities, she said.
“We’re really trying to have our staff model good health,” Boyer continued, adding that this year the staff was offered a health screening for the first time.And throughout March, National Nutrition Month, schools in the district incorporated more nutrition lessons into their plans, said Brackett, who has a degree in nutrition.”Whatever they’re learning now is what they’ll apply to life,” she said.Spencer, who plays soccer and basketball, jogs and skis, keeps his immune system in check by taking Omega-3 supplements and tries to balance his diet for what his body needs, shares Brackett’s sentiment. “It’s easier to learn younger so you don’t develop bad habits,” he said.
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