RSU 9 committee working to increase healthy food, drink choices

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FARMINGTON — About 85 percent of students going through a lunch line at the high school’s new food court recently went to the salad bar to take more vegetables and fruits, RSU 9 Director Betsey Hyde of Temple told board members recently.

When Food Service Director Cheryl Ellis first started the salad bar, she had to make sure students were getting the required vegetables and fruits, Hyde said.

Hyde and Director Wanda Soule of Chesterville serve on the board’s health advisory committee, along with school health coordinator Alyce Cavanaugh and Ellis.

They are working on expanding the school nutrition program to increase healthy choices. It is the fourth goal on the district’s long-range plan on school nutrition.

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The link between nutrition and learning is essential to academic success and well being, Hyde said.

Obesity rates in Maine have gone through the roof since the 1950s and 1960s, she said.

Fast foods, televisions, portion control, both parents working and less physical activity all played a role in the trend, she said. Additionally, school districts continually have reduced the amount of physical education students get due to budget constraints, she said.

“There are things we can do,” Hyde said.

Some recommendations are continuing the effort to offer more healthy choices in school food services program and improving selections in vending machines, she said.

School districts used to have to offer 840-calorie meals for lunch but the federal government has changed the guidelines to less, Hyde said. Meals are no longer based on calories. Grains, fat and other food components and quantities are now included in the formula and must be met, Hyde said.

For grades kindergarten through eight, students need to have a minimum of 3¾ cups of vegetables per week and three-quarters of a cup minimum daily. They also need to have a minimum of 2½ cups of fruit per week, one-half cup minimum daily.

Students in grades nine through 12 are required to have a minimum of five cups of vegetables and fruits weekly and a minimum of one cup per day. Guidelines are also set on the types of vegetables and fruits they need to have. Grains, meat/meat alternatives and milk servings also are regulated.

All schools in the district offer a salad bar, except for Mallett School in Farmington and Cushing School in Wilton. Both offer chef salads, Hyde said.

Healthy food also is sold at the culinary arts snack bar, which is run by students at the high school. Only baked chips are served, she said.

Vending machines also offer healthier choices, but the advisory committee would like to see more, Hyde said.

She gave a demonstration on how much sugar was in drinks sold in the machines. Only one, Vitamin Water Zero has no sugar, she said.

“We need to get sugar out of our diets,” she said. Juice has sugar but it is natural sugar, she added.

Adults need to model healthy behavior, she said. The teachers’ room has vending machines that has some healthier items such as pretzels and peanuts and some not so healthy items such as candy bars, she said.

The committee would like to see only healthy foods sold in the machines.

The committee also would like to have healthier products sold in the vending machines, which are accessible to students, Hyde said. They would like to lease a refrigerated vending machine at the high school and offer fruit and yogurt parfaits, milk and fruit, among other healthy choices. Students would operate the vending machine.

The board also needs to review its food-related policies and make sure they are being enforced, Hyde said.

dperry@sunjournal.com

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