The Steamboat Springs School District is making the right move by reducing the availability of soda to our students.
We're not so naÃive to think this alone will prevent childhood obesity and produce healthier children; however, it's a step in the right direction and could be a catalyst to generate greater thought about how we teach, promote and foster healthy eating.
Within the next 30 days, bottled water, sports drinks, low-calorie juice drinks, teas and diet soda will be the only available beverages in Steamboat Springs High School vending machines. Water and 100-percent juices will be the only for-sale beverages available to elementary and middle school students.
The change was, in part, federally mandated. New laws prohibit the sale of carbonated beverages during breakfast and lunch in schools that receive government funding for school meal programs. Nevertheless, it's good to see the district making this move now.
Long term, we think more can be done to address the nutritional options our students face, but only if the community is interested enough to advocate for such changes.
The school district does a great job of offering daily hot meals that include a meat, bread, fruit, vegetable and milk for less than $3. Those meals have specific limits on fat content and minimums for calories and vitamins. High school and middle school students also can select from a salad and fruit bar.
But in addition to the daily entree, middle school and high school students can purchase food from the a la carte menu that includes ice cream, cookies, candy bars, pizza and french fries. The high school allows fast-food restaurants such as KFC, Dominos and Beau Jo's on campus on a recurring schedule to provide lunch options. Also, because the high school campus is open, students can leave and purchase meals at fast-food restaurants or convenience stores.
Parents who give their children $3 a day to buy hot, nutritional school lunches can't be sure that's what their children are choosing to do.
The truth is, the majority aren't making that choice. Teresa Wise, the school district's new nutrition services director, said less than half of middle school and high school students choose the hot entree option.
Eliminating these options is easier said than done. The a la carte menus and the fast food are more profitable options for the school district than selling prepared entrees with five food groups for $2.75 a plate. The food service department already loses money; eliminating these other options would only exacerbate financial challenges.
Wise would like to see the district invest in a point-of-sale system that would allow parents to purchase credits for their children and then monitor the food purchases their children make at school. It's an interesting concept that is worth exploring.
We believe that the best place to develop healthy eating habits is at home. But, in the interest of community wellness, aren't our school food options worth a closer look? The decision to remove sodas was a great first step. Let's follow that up by discussing what more we can - and should - do.