High school snacks attacked
Healthy choices? Hmph. You’re a hungry high school student in line at the school store and you have to decide before the bell rings: Clif Bar or Snickers bar? The Snickers bar, of course. That’s how high school students in the Roaring Fork Valley describe their buying habits between classes at school stores and at vending machines after school. And, as you might guess, the kids don’t want their smorgasbord of caffeine, chips and candy to go away. “I think we should keep selling it (candy and pop) because it really helps us out,” said Roaring Fork High School sophomore Nicole Smeins, who works in the school store. “It gives an energy rush and keeps you awake throughout the day if you’re having a lull or something.”Some students who are regular customers drop up to $5 each day on candy and soft drinks, she said. Adults in the front office and in the state Legislature, however, have designs on minimizing the selection of junk food available in schools. It’s a matter of heated debate nationwide: California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenneger tried to get all junk food banned in his state’s public schools, and health advocates claim junk food available in schools contributes to obesity. House rulesThe Colorado Legislature is now considering a bill to regulate what kind of food can be sold in vending machines in the state’s public schools. If passed, House Bill 1056 would require that half of all items stocked in school vending machines be healthy by the 2008-09 school year. The bill cleared the House Education Committee on Tuesday. The bill, which doesn’t mention junk food sold in school stores, likely won’t have a profound effect on Roaring Fork School District Re-1 campuses because each school years ago began selling mostly water, juice and Gatorade in vending machines, and most of the soda and candy consumed on local high school campuses comes from the school store or outside the school. Superintendent Fred Wall said each school administration decides for itself whether to have vending machines or school stores and what’s sold in them. Each school with vending machines has its own contract with a supplier, with sales proceeds often going to school clubs, he said. RFSD doesn’t have a policy regulating vending machines, Wall said, but that may soon change. “There’s a need to do a wellness bill in each school district, and we need to start working on that,” he said. Exactly how such a bill would regulate the kind of food sold in vending machines and school stores hasn’t been determined yet, Wall said, adding that he plans to work on the bill before he leaves his post this summer.Healthy food neededHowever the district or state may alter what kind of food students buy on campus, most RFSD middle and high school principals see the need for vending machines and school stores to be stocked with healthy food. Glenwood Springs High School Principal Paul Freeman said the school has three vending machines, one stocked with water, another with Gatorade, and soda in the other. The school also has a school store peddling candy, soda and chips open all day between classes. The store benefits the DECA class, he said. “We are in the process of somewhat casually reviewing the vending machine contents at the moment with a view to having a formal review of all aspects of the way we feed and water students at Glenwood Springs High School,” Freeman said. He said his research shows that water sells extremely well in vending machines. In the school store, though, he speculated that healthy food wouldn’t sell as well as candy and chips. “It’s all very well teaching in health classes about appropriate diet, and if you don’t model that appropriate diet, you’re probably going to undermine the message you were giving in the classes,” he said. But though Coke and Snickers bars won’t likely disappear at Glenwood High, any change in what snacks are sold there won’t happen at least until the school’s expansion is complete late next year. “I’d say where we are with the healthy school, it’s more on the back burner at the moment,” Freeman said. “It’s a matter of carving out a policy. We don’t want to simply mandate something without a reasonably wide consultation process.”Sports drinksAt Roaring Fork High School, Principal Dale Parker said the school has two Gatorade vending machines used exclusively for after-school sports. “Soft drinks aren’t necessarily conducive to good education, and you tend to have kids spike up and down with sugar,” he said, adding, “I wouldn’t say for a school that has a soft drink in there that that’s horrible.”The RFHS school store, which sells soda and candy to benefit the student council, is only open twice a day for seven minutes at a time, he said. Area middle schools also have vending machines, but ditched soda years ago. Glenwood Middle School has two vending machines selling juice and sports drinks only after school hours, said Principal Robert Faris. “We saw that sugar and crummy snacks were not to the benefit to the kids,” he said. “We’re asking them to put their best effort into their academic work. I don’t want to throw them a coke machine and say suck down nine tablespoons of sugar.”Since the school dropped sodas from its vending machines several years ago, the school has received no complaints. “It’s really basic,” Faris said. “Good food, good snacks – and behavior is optimized.”Likewise at Carbondale Middle School. Vending machines there sell juices and bottled water, said Principal Cliff Colia. The effort to rid junk food from school was sparked by parent concerns, he said. “The less sugar we pump into our kids, the better.”District elementary schools do not have vending machines or school stores selling snacks and soda. Students want optionsDespite school administration efforts to minimize the volume of junk food available, students don’t like district officials forcing them to eat only healthy food.”I think that our school offers healthy alternatives,” said GSHS senior Secia Klocke. “We have water next to the soda vending machines and they sell things like pretzels. It’s not the school district’s responsibility to help us make healthy choices. It’s our choice.”Senior Matt McAdow, who works in the school store, said the store offers Clif Bars, but they don’t sell very well. “We should still be allowed to have unhealthy (options),” he said. Healthy items should be test-marketed at the school store, said DECA member Matt Miller, also a senior. Students would buy apples, oranges and Vitamin Water, he said, because “it’s in to be healthy.”Nonetheless, he said, stocking the store with healthy food is “probably on the back burner right now.”Senior Nicole Fockler said she doesn’t think the school should eliminate soda and candy. But, “we should have a wider variety of healthy food to choose from.”Besides, she said, if the school doesn’t sell soda and candy, at lunch, “kids are going to get them at McDonald’s or wherever.”Contact Bobby Magill: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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