Schools Offer Healthy Food Choices

No junk foods in Payson schools

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Every day, kids are lured by advertisements enticing them with sugary, cream-filled junk foods promising to either amaze their taste buds, or entertain them with zany cartoon characters.

The Payson Unified School District is actively battling the junk food craze by offering only healthy food choices on school campuses.

Parents have complained to the district in the past about Payson schools selling things like candy, soda pop, potato chips and other snack foods out of classrooms.

Roy Sandoval, principal at Payson High School, said the school doesn't sell any of those food items anywhere in the high school.

"To be honest with you, when I got here three years ago it seemed like everywhere you looked people were selling things out of their room," he said.

"The trash problem was horrible. Now, (only) water or juice from machines (is sold on campus), nothing from the rooms," Sandoval added.

He said the single exception to the policy is culinary arts.

The culinary arts program is allowed to sell burritos on half days because it's needed to teach student's preparation of food in volume, Sandoval said.

"Food preparation on a large scale is directly related to their curriculum and it affords a venue for implementing the curriculum," he said.

Paula Patterson, principal of Frontier Elementary School said her school offers only healthy snacks.

She said the school has no vending machines at all, and snacks adhere to nutrition standards set forth by the Arizona Department of Education.

She added that none of the foods at Frontier Elementary School are deep-fried, they are baked instead.

"We also switched recess and lunch this year," Patterson said.

Recess at Frontier Elementary School now comes before lunch, instead of after, like last year, she said.

"We've seen a remarkable change in students," Patterson said. "They eat slower because they aren't in a rush to finish and get out to recess."

She said students are also eating more of the healthy foods because of the switch.

"We have the salad bar and fruits available, which students can go back to as often as they like," Patterson said.

The issue of junk food in schools is not a new one.

Government studies and private research in 2004 and 2005 indicated that junk food in schools could pose health problems.

"Children in the United States are becoming more overweight and obese, putting them at risk for serious health concerns such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and elevated cholesterol and blood pressure levels. In addition to the risk of obesity-related health concerns, poor food choices could lead to other health concerns like osteoporosis from inadequate calcium intake," the Washington based Institute of Medicine said.

A study by the Government Accountability Office in 2005 found that 99 percent of high schools, 83 percent of elementary schools and 97 percent of middle schools in the U.S. sold snack foods that were considered unhealthy or of minimal nutritional value.

In April of last year, Gov. Janet Napolitano signed a bill requiring schools to develop nutrition standards for school snacks and drinks.

High schools were exempt from the legislation.

"All of Payson's elementary (schools) and the middle school follow federal and state nutritional requirements, and we encourage the high school to follow the same standards," district Superintendent Casey O"Brien said.

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