School lunches to veg out

Grants will fund nutrition programs in Steamboat

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Elementary school students in Steamboat Springs will be in a classroom even while they're eating lunch.

Darcy Trask, the school district's nutrition services director, said two $600 grants from the Legacy Education Foundation will help "make the lunchroom a health classroom," by funding programs that she said are "designed to partner school lunch with health and science lessons on healthy eating and with physical education curriculum focused on integrating physical fitness into everyday living."

The programs will bring "fun, kid-friendly" nutrition education and incentives to young students and also provide pedometers to schools so students can see the benefits of exercise firsthand, Trask said.

"Helping students to make good choices about nutrition has become more difficult in a time when kids are bombarded with marketing for high-fat, high-sugar, low-nutrient products," Trask said. "Although it may not be obvious in the Yampa Valley yet, now is the time to begin to teach our students how to manage their choices in the face of a tidal wave of kid-focused marketing."

Money from the grants will be used for programs at Hayden and South Routt schools in addition to Steamboat.

Nancy Spencer runs the "Tiger Paw Cafe" at Hayden Valley Elementary School and is the nutrition services director for Hayden schools. Teresa Meade, head cook at Soroco High School, is the nutrition services director in South Routt.

Trask said programs funded by the grants will help kick off a "big push" next month to teach kids and families about fruits and vegetables.

New, special-order salad bars are expected to arrive within a couple of weeks, and Trask is preparing a mandated wellness policy for the school district.

Students also are seeing lunch in a new light at Steamboat Springs Middle School.

Mary Dike, nutritional services production manager for the school, has spearheaded renovations to the cafeteria including newly painted walls, awnings over the lunch counters, potted plants and even velvet ropes -- restored after their former use at the Seventh Street Playhouse -- that form the lunch line.

"This just warmed it up," Dike said about the renovations, which are still in progress and will soon include murals on the walls and large, fake windows high above the serving area. "And the kids seem to really like it. Somehow having it nicer makes them want to treat it nicer."

--To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4203 or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com

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