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November 25, 2012
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Local students offered tips for healthy eating

EDWARDS - If we keep eating like this , then our children won't live as long as we do. Someone should do something about it. Someone is.

"Kids today are expected to live shorter lives than their parents," said Venita Currie, LiveWell Colorado program director.

LiveWell was in town last week to help train Ray Edel and the school district's nutritional services crew. LiveWell is providing training and money, two things missing in so many programs such as the local school district, Currie said.

LiveWell is a nonprofit dedicated to reducing childhood obesity rates. Those rates have been skyrocketing in Colorado, she said.

"Our kids used to be rated third in the nation in childhood health. Now, we've fallen down to 23rd," Currie said.

The biggest lessons in life are taught at the dinner table, Currie said. LiveWell teaches teachers and other adults ways to teach kids to make good life choices.

"There is not only a digital divide, there's a nutritional divide," Currie said. "The kids who get better nutrition will perform better in the classroom. That translates to better grades, better colleges and better opportunities in their lives."

"The life outcome for those two kids is very different. It means so much what's on that plate. It goes far beyond today," Currie said.

Toward that end, Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz joined LiveWell Colorado's board of directors, and he and his wife, Elana Amsterdam, donated $1 million to help take the program statewide.

"Serving kids healthier school meals is one of the most important things we can do to set our children up for success in all parts of their life," Katz said. "Elana and I are thrilled to be able to support LiveWell Colorado in its groundbreaking efforts to give every school in Colorado in 10 years the tools they need to prepare higher-quality and better-tasting food. The best way to solve our current health care dilemma is to stay healthier, and there is no better place to start than with our kids."

LiveWell has been doing this since 2008. Eagle County is the ninth of Colorado's 178 school districts to get the training. Those nine school districts transitioned from serving 90 to 100 percent processed foods to serving 65 to 95 percent scratch-cooked foods, with few or no processed ingredients, Currie said.

LiveWell looks at everything from the food service department's financials to recipes.

They found that the local school district is light-years ahead of most others around the state, but it could use a little expertise.

LiveWell came to town Monday with a staff of 12 experts to train 24 people from the school district's kitchen crew.

The takeaway is healthy cooking techniques, especially in sauce production, Edel said.

Fresh Approach

The Eagle County School District's Fresh Approach program already puts healthy food in front of every kid every day they're in school. Meals are made from scratch using only fresh ingredients. Fruit and vegetable bars are in every school, Edel said.

Also, and you'll love this, Edel and his crew started Stealth Health, putting vegetables into sauces and other foods without kids knowing it.

Because, on one hand, Brussels sprouts are enough to make most kids and former kids start a food fight.

On the other hand, that might be the most exercise some kids get all day.

The school district piloted its Fresh Approach program two years ago in Brush Creek Elementary School, and it's in all 19 schools this year.

Time management is a huge component of cooking from scratch, Edel said. It takes longer, and he doesn't get to hire more staff.

Time management matters because cooking from scratch consumes more of it. Not so long ago, school cafeteria workers yanked chicken nuggets out of a freezer and popped them in the oven.

"Instead of using chicken nuggets, which you can hire anyone to do, now we have to know how to prepare foods from scratch, and that requires time and expertise," Edel said. "Programs like this are being done because there's no trained staff."

Scratch cooking also requires certain skills, which explains the sessions in handling knives and raw proteins in this week's LiveWell seminars.

"It's about consistency and techniques that make it sustainable without having to charge the kids double the price for their lunch," Edel said.

Fresh fruit and vegetable bars are in every school. They'll use whole grains in 100 percent of their meals soon. Scratch entrees are in all the schools right now, too.

Students are eating kale. Voluntarily. Happily. They're not in detention or anything.

Kale's a vegetable, and it's really, really good for you.

Students actually grow their own kale and lots of other vegetables as part of the school district's Fresh Approach program.

It's not complicated; it's just a little work. Students plant and grow vegetables in the school's greenhouse, harvest them and eat them. It's like the Little Red Hen without the naysayers.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.


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The VailDaily Updated Nov 25, 2012 10:22PM Published Nov 25, 2012 10:20PM Copyright 2012 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.