Preventing obesity |

Preventing obesity

Cindy Ramunno

“I walked five miles to school – uphill both ways!”

If you’ve heard this line from a parent or grandparent, that person is trying to ask you something: Have we become lazy? Are we eating too much junk food?

Probably. Childhood obesity has gone up in America, while physical education requirements have gone down. With parents and administrators putting more emphasis on math, language arts and sciences, things like “P.E.” obviously suffer.

Be active

We live in a very active valley, with educated parents who know what good foods are and kids who are involved in tons of activities. In fact, the Western Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District alone offers so many activities that kids now have to choose in any particular season.

Along with the traditional sports, WECMRD offers activities, include swimming and karate. Scott Ruff, Facility Manager for the Eagle Pool and Ice Rink, says he thinks an active kid is a happy kid.

“Kids need to be active, whether it’s a sport or activity,” Ruff says, adding that it’s especially important at the middle-school level. “The physical and social benefits are tremendous for kids, along with the fact that they’re forming good habits.”

Walk a mile

This fall, the Eagle County School District is enforcing its “walk distance” rule. Instead of picking up all kids, bus routes will not be stopping for elementary students who live within a mile of their school; for middle and high school students, it’s a mile and a half. According to Colorado law, districts are not required to provide any transportation whatsoever, with the exception of special-needs students.

“Elementary students who live within a walking mile won’t have a bus route,” says the district’s director of transportation, Melanie McMichael. “However, we will have more crossing guards for those students.”

McMichael says some middle and high school routes will be consolidated, and some parents could be responsible for getting their child to a particular bus stop.

Parents, meanwhile, are divided on walk distance rule, with some of the concerns being safety and the greater change of bullying by other kids. To help understand the routes, parents can go online at eagle for additional route information.

Junk food vs. healthy food

Then there is the issue of food. What’s good and healthy doesn’t taste like a Kit Kat bar. Schools and other entities have vending machines and concession stands that sell predominately sweet and salty snack food. There are a few with bananas and bagels, but that stuff just doesn’t sell.

According to the American Obesity Association, school districts need to be designated lunch rooms where kids can eat with friends in a social setting. Districts also need to receive adequate funds for food service, and the menu needs to mirror the USDA nutrition standards. The food service department at the Eagle County School District does all of that, focusing on all the basic food groups. There is no “junk food” on the menus, and cafeteria workers follow specific recipes from a USDA cookbook. Three of the five basic food groups must be served with each lunch.

At Eagle Valley Middle School, the cafeteria offers a daily salad bar and students get have choices in fruits and vegetables. School manager Deb Eichler says middle and high school is more difficult to control, because kids are choosing their own food. However, she says, kids for the most part are making good choices.

“Many of our students get a bowl of salad with their lunch,” Eichler says. “We try to give them more choices, so that they choose healthy foods.”

Lunch prices, meanwhile, have gone up this year, to $2.75 per lunch for elementary and middle school students and $3.00 for high school students.

Common sense tells us that junk food, in moderation, is fine. Classroom parties with cupcakes and punch are a part of life, as is the occasional bag of cheese puffs. But it shouldn’t be a basis for your overall food consumption.

For more information on the school district’s efforts for healthy kids, call 328-6321.

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