Soda Creek Elementary School second-grader Mitch Meissner throws a ball Tuesday during physical education class. Officials say a grant will help them institute more programs that encourage physical fitness and healthy eating.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Soda Creek Elementary School second-grader Mitch Meissner throws a ball Tuesday during physical education class. Officials say a grant will help them institute more programs that encourage physical fitness and healthy eating.

Routt County schools receive grant to help fight obesity

Routt County organizations working together to promote healthy living



Soda Creek Elementary School second-grader Jade Peed passes a ball to classmate Sarah Wittemyer on Tuesday during physical education class. Routt County schools are pushing to increase physical activity time, and officials hope to do that with a $150,000 grant intended to reduce obesity and help residents live healthy lives.


Soda Creek Elementary School physical education teacher Shannon Carlin leads students in a plank exercise during class Tuesday.

Supporters of LiveWell

■ Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association

■ Routt County Extension Office

■ Hayden Parks and Recreation Department

■ Steamboat Springs Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department

■ Yampa Valley Medical Center

■ First Impressions of Routt County

■ Routt County school districts

■ Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association

■ Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.

■ City of Steamboat Springs

■ Town of Hayden

■ Town of Oak Creek

■ Routt County

— Local school officials say a grant awarded to Routt County will help them institute new programs that encourage physical fitness and healthy eating. They say those in turn will make local students better learners.

LiveWell Colorado, a Denver nonprofit group, recently gave the county a $150,000 grant intended to reduce obesity and help residents live healthy lives. It’s the second year of a seven-year grant that will provide more than $1 million to the county, said Barb Parnell, community coordinator for LiveWell Northwest Colorado, which was formed by the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association to receive and allocate the grant funding.

Parnell said Colorado is touted as the leanest state in the United States, which is true for adults, but not necessarily for children.

According to “The Weight of the State,” a 2009 report on Colorado’s overweight and obesity trends conducted by the state Department of Public Health and Environment, 13.6 percent of the state’s 2- to 14-year-olds were obese.

A 2007-08 study posted on the Journal of the American Medical Association’s website indicated that obesity rates nationally tripled to 19.6 percent among children ages 6 to 11 since 1980.

Parnell said Colorado is following national trends.

“Kids are becoming more and more overweight,” she said.

She said the funding provided by LiveWell Colorado would combat that. Parnell said Routt County schools would receive money to buy Fitness Gram software.

Soda Creek Elementary Sch­ool physical education teacher Shannon Carlin recently attended a workshop of P.E. teachers and nutritional service directors for each of the county’s school districts.

Carlin said the Fitness Gram software, which has been ordered, would allow her to conduct fitness tests and compare Soda Creek students with national averages. She said the tests would measure flexibility, cardiovascular health and muscular strength.

Each Routt County school is pushing to increase physical activity time, Carlin said. She said the schools also are discussing the possibility of moving recess before lunch, based on studies indicating that children learn more effectively if they exercise before they eat.

“It’s part of building the whole child, especially in this country with obesity rates skyrocketing,” she said. “Early intervention is huge.”

To increase fitness in South Routt, Cindy Meade, the district’s school nurse, said she has requested funding to institute a staff wellness program. Meade, who attended the same workshop as Carlin, wants to buy pedometers that can be issued to staff to encourage additional physical fitness. Meade said she hopes the increased physical activity of the staff would trickle down to the students.

Meade said healthier children are better learners. And she said the younger children are, the easier it is to teach better habits.

“If we encourage and teach children lifelong skills: staying in shape, eating well, exercising and having fun, we’re helping kids become better adults,” she said.

Steve Carlson, nutritional services director for the Hayden School District, also attended the workshop. Carlson, who has incorporated healthy lunch choices since he took the job late in the 2008-09 school year, said he has requested funding to buy new equipment for his kitchen.

He said that much of his equipment is old or inadequate and that new equipment would aid in his quest to promote healthy choices to students at an early age.

“It will just open up an array of possibilities for us as far as offering healthy food and fresh food,” he said.

In addition to the funding provided to the schools, Parnell said the grant has helped pay for community gardens. She said it would pay to study the feasibility of a Routt County Community Food Cooperative and develop a low-cost or no-cost wellness resource guide for businesses.

Parnell said future goals include extending the Yampa River Core Trail, in addition to projects planned for Hayden and Oak Creek.

“It links to the broad quality of life (issues) in all the communities,” Diane Mitsch Bush, county commissioner and chairwoman of the LiveWell Northwest Colorado Steering Committee, said about the grant. “It affects education infrastructure, physical and social (aspects) to help us to be a healthier community.”


max huppert 6 years, 9 months ago

Outstanding, I just got back from a advanced class at the Culinary Institute Of America in California which was a week class about healthy cooking with focus on Asia, Med, and Latin influence. We had a Dietitian in the morning giving us the latest info and then a Chef in the afternoon as we cooked. We will be bring a new level to the school district next year that everyone in the country will look toward as a roll model. Our Students will have a variety of healthy and nutritious options with 90% scratch cooking. our focus to use the grant money will be for education to the kids and the parents that they must continue the focus at home and make this a lifestyle change.

Max Huppert Director of Nutrition for Steamboat


Scott Wedel 6 years, 9 months ago

The big issue is not food, not that better food isn't healthier, but everything indicates that childhood obesity is all about sedentary lifestyle.

It looks like the best childhood obesity programs are early intervention programs that involve the parents and basically finds enjoyable ways to get the kid some exercise instead of playing video games and watching TV.


max huppert 6 years, 9 months ago

well Scott, it is a big picture issue, you must have both the right eating habits, and exercise. I had a lot of professionals in my class from around the country and in all sectors of food business. Doctors, hospital food service, food scientists, psychiatrist, campus dinning chefs, personal chefs, ect. So the wide range of information from all aspects of living a healthy life was there and very interesting how much little things can affect your overall diet. Stress being a big problem for instance, it actually affects how you intake food nutrients. Sunlight, pollution, exercise, moderation, lifestyle, so many things that I hope we can share with parents to help raise a healthy child. we aim for higher participation in the school lunch program so we can have higher buying power and do even more in the program. Plus most lunches I see come in from home and very bad, nothing but junk food snacks that are one of the biggest problems in the country.


Scott Wedel 6 years, 9 months ago

Max, I said that better food is healthier, but there is basically no indication that childhood obesity is primarily a food issue. The studies that note the issue of childhood obesity and look at what is different now than 20-30 years ago when it was a far smaller problem consistently observe the big change is that the kids are sedentary. Kids have been eating junk food for a long time, but have only recently started to get fat.

The big change is that kids used to go home and play where the playing was exercise. Now too many kids go home and sit in front of the TV and video games. The problem is not active kids eating too much bad foods, but sedentary kids.

Teaching kids to appreciate better food is a good idea that will help them the rest of their lives, but there is precious little reason to believe it will address childhood obesity. It is absolutely clear that a sedentary kid can get obese eating healthy foods. Expecting fewer obese kids because of better cafeteria food is not a science backed expected outcome.

Well with the software tracking then they will be able to answer the question of whether kids that eat cafeteria food are less obese than those than don't eat there. Hopefully they collect that data.


max huppert 6 years, 9 months ago

well I dont know where u come up with that idea cause from my knowledge its wrong. We did discuss time lines with obese trends and you are way off with your thought process, there is a huge difference with the amount of processed foods and types of food available now then when I was a kid. so for you to think that a kid can eat junk and just run and not be fat could be the case but they are not healthy in any regard. We dont have a big problem with obese kids in steamboat but do have a healthy eating problem that leads to alot of bad things. This is the biggest problem that parents dont have the right info or look online to find a study that is incorrect in most cases. in most cases the lunch brought to school my kids are not helping.


1999 6 years, 9 months ago


I am glad the schools are finally seeing and acting upon the correlation between learning, self esteem, nutrition and exercise.

we want healthy children in all aspects. this is a great step!!



babette dickson 6 years, 9 months ago

Scott, What happened after and before school -with or without parents supervision- is beyond Max Le Chef's control, or mine as an Educator.... But I can tell you that if all the kids in America could eat the food Max and his team prepare every day.... Oh Boy, this country would LOOK different! In fact, Max, I can't wait to have my last meal tomorrow! What are you secretly cooking for the luckiest school staff in the U.S. of A!!!


max huppert 6 years, 9 months ago

sorry Felix only hot dogs and burgers, good quality though. But will knock your socks off for next year. working on menu now, should have elementary done in a couple weeks. will do 4 cycle menu's for that grade level each seasonal to get the best results. plus all the other stuff we make. Our fresh bread will turn out better with the addition of stone deck ovens, cant wait to get those in 6-8 weeks. right now i was costing out recipe for salad dressings we will make, kids still want ranch but will get a better quality and healthier then processed kinds. see ya tomorrow...


mavis 6 years, 9 months ago

I wish some of this grant money could be used to increase PE in schools so they could get it EVERY week. The nutrition part is just as important as the kids getting enought physical activity daily.


Scott Wedel 6 years, 9 months ago

If you are going to promote that good cafeteria food is going to reduce childhood obesity then we should be prepared to be disappointed because the bulk of the data says it is not the food, but the inactivity that causes childhood obesity.

Good food should be promoted as good habits and knowledge for life

If we want to reduce local rates of childhood obesity then we should be talking about daily minimum exercise. It is a public health nightmare than now when kids are at greatest risk to be sedentary after school coincides with the least amount of PE in the schools.

If we can ask the kids to keep daily logs of reading then maybe we should ask them to keep a log expecting at least 15 minutes of daily exercise. Or maybe PE should be reinstated to 30 minutes a day.

(BTW, a possible side good food program might be to find a way for kids to bring home, or be taught how to prepare, a good after school snack or maybe dinner. I know of too many older kids that have to cook for themselves and maybe their younger siblings. So they end up having frozen pizza or other highly processed frozen food because what else is a 13-17 year old going to cook besides what can be microwaved?)


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