Soda’s out, juice is in under new school nutrition policy | NevadaAppeal.com
YOUR AD HERE »

Soda’s out, juice is in under new school nutrition policy

by Maggie O'Neill
Appeal Staff Writer

Kaileen Bachman, 15, isn’t a huge soda drinker, but she and her friends know what they’ll do when the food and beverages they want aren’t available on campus next year.

They’ll leave during open lunch.

A new restrictive drink and food policy expected to take effect July 1 prohibits sales of high-fat foods and carbonated and caffeinated beverages in schools. The change will occur not only in the Carson City School District but in all 17 districts statewide.

“It’s a good thing because junk food is all a lot of the kids eat at school,” Bachman said. “But (student activities) are going to lose out on a lot of money because kids are going to go out to stores to get food.

“And I’m sure a lot of kids are going to be tardy coming back.”

All profits from vending machines go to the student-activities fund.

Bonnie Eastwood, director of nutrition services for the Carson City School District, said the new policy can’t change how students eat, but may influence their choices.

“We’re hoping to encourage parents to choose healthier snacks to send from home,” Eastwood said. “We can’t dictate what to put into them, but we can encourage healthy alternatives. The hope is that parents of bag-lunch kids will step up to the plate and try to meet the new criteria as well.”

Adoption of a wellness policy is federally mandated for school districts that receive federal assistance through the National School Lunch Program. The program provides free or reduced-price meals for children from low-income families.

All of Nevada’s 17 school districts participate. The Richard B. Russell Nutrition Act of 2004 mandates that states and school districts using the program have a wellness policy in effect by July 1.

As a result, the Nevada Department of Education developed a policy of its own, which restricts calories in foods to 30 percent fat, and sugar to 35 percent by serving size.

Districts now have the choice of adopting that policy or coming up with a more restrictive alternative. The recommendation of Carson district officials’ – to accept the state’s policy as is – will go before the Carson City School Board for a vote on Tuesday.

“My basic problem with (the policy) is that it’s from the federal and state government, and I think personally they are too involved in micro-managing in what happens in the classroom and what happens in school,” said James Hukari, a school board trustee.

He believes adoption of a wellness policy should be made locally.

“I have no problem with the (parent-teacher associations) and the school administrators getting together at the local level and saying this is what we would like to do,” he said. “I have a lot of heartburn with the government telling us what kind of calories we can have during the day.”

Under the new policy, profits from sales of vending machine items will continue to benefit student academics and activities, but the machines will sell products like juice and water. The potential effect on the student activities fund is unknown.

But not all students, including Carson High School senior John Bass, 18, spend a lot of money on vending machine items anyway.

“I think the policy will be fine because I don’t drink that many sodas,” he said. “The kids who drink all the soda, they wouldn’t be as hyper as they usually are if they drank more juice.”

The policy does not prohibit students from bringing in foods like soda and candies.

“We did not write any punishment or punitive damages into the policy,” said Donnell Barton, Nevada Department of Education director of child nutrition and school health. “Hopefully, we won’t have to do that.”

Carson High School senior Annie Brinson, 18, already makes good choices about what she packs from home.

For breakfast, she eats oatmeal with her dad and for lunch packs a peanut-butter sandwich and apple. She hasn’t had a soda – regular or diet – since middle school.

“I see girls and guys alike at 8 in the morning and they’re having a soda for breakfast,” she said. “It’s really not good.”

She says vending machines selling junk foods are nothing but temptation.

“I like the idea of the new policy,” she said. “If (kids) really need the soda and the chips and if they have to walk to Walgreens to get it, maybe they should. That would be potentially good exercise.”

It’s not good exercise or healthy-living education that Hukari resists, it’s the top-down intrusion of being told what to do.

“Anything that comes from grassroots, if the process is good and there’s consensus, I can live with,” he said. “I have a hard time living with the government telling me what to do. Look at what we’re talking about. It’s eating. How far are we going to go?”

Web forum

The National Action for Healthy Kids is sponsoring a live, interactive Web forum on “The Role of School Wellness in Creating High-Performing Schools” from noon-1:15 p.m. Thursday.

The broadcast will feature educational leaders in school reform for a discussion and question-and-answer section.

Register at http://www.actionforhealthykids.org

• Saturated fats limited to 10 percent of the total calories of a food product

• Total fats limited to 30 percent of total calories

• Sodium limited at 600 mg per serving

• No more than 35 percent sugar by weight per serving

• Serving sizes limited for certain foods, like chips (which meet the above requirements) to 1 ounce at the elementary school and 1.25 ounces in middle and high school; bakery items to 3 ounces and frozen desserts to four ounces, at all school levels.

• Electrolyte replacement beverages limited to 12 ounces and cannot be sold at the elementary school level

• Foods of little nutritional value cannot be sold or given away, including carbonated beverages, like sodas or diet soda, water ices, chewing gum, and candies like jellies, licorice and hard candy

• Ice cream, cookies, cupcakes, cakes, chips, dips and chocolate bars may be sold if they meet the required nutritional standards

• Food exemptions are allowed for state or national holidays, birthday parties and when part of the learning curriculum

• Elementary schools must serve lunch following a 30-minute recess, not before