Indiana Daily Student

Schools engage in healthy discussion

Officials try to combat rising obesity rates

The Monroe County Community School Corporation will present a wellness plan to MCCSC principals Monday that will outline ways to promote healthy diets in local schools.\nJennifer Staab, healthy schools coordinator for Monroe County, said it is important to promote healthy eating habits as the obesity rate continues to rise. \nAccording to the Brookings Institute study "The Future of Children," 33 percent of children between the age of 10 and 17 are overweight in Indiana.\n"The obesity rate is phenomenal," Staab said. "Kids are playing more video games, watching more movies, doing more sedentary activity and have more junky foods available to them."\nStaab said the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 states that schools receiving public funding must have a wellness plan in place, but the law doesn't specify what the plan should look like.\nThe wellness plan that will be presented Monday will use the Center of Disease Control's eight points of a healthy school as its basis. The eight points of the model consist of health education, physical education, health services, nutrition services, counseling, psychological and social services, healthy school environments, health promotion for staff and family and community involvement.\nOne of the most important points in the plan will be the policing of junk food and sodas in middle and high schools.\n"Some of the schools, like North High School, have voluntarily gotten rid of junk and sodas," Staab said. "Vending companies are also changing what they offer in school environments and are offering healthier foods. They are trying to get ahead of the curve."\nThe Indiana Department of Education sent a memorandum to school superintendents and administrators on April 25 concerning Public Law 54-2006, "School Nutrition and Physical Activity." \nThe memo reminded administrator that by July 1, every school corporation must provide daily physical activity for students in elementary schools, and vending machines at elementary schools that dispense food or beverage items may not be accessible to students. Also by July 1, 35 percent of foods and beverages available for sale to students must meet the "better choice" criteria. This will increase to 50 percent in late 2007. \nThe law says "better choice" drinks are not soft drinks, punch, iced tea, coffee, fruit or vegetable based drinks that contain less than half real juice or have additional caloric sweeteners or drinks that contain caffeine, except for low fat and fat free chocolate milk. \nAdditionally, food items available for sale at a school or on school grounds will have portion limits if they contain more than 210 calories.\nSen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, recently introduced the Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act in the U.S. Senate. If passed, this bill would update nutrition standards for all foods sold in schools.\n"Nationwide, these days, only eight percent of elementary schools provide daily physical education or its equivalent for all students," Harkin said at the Healthy Schools summit in Washington in September. "Meanwhile, according to the Government Accountability Office, the vast majority of our schools -- including 83 percent of elementary schools, 97 percent of middle schools and 99 percent of high schools -- allow so called 'competitive food sources,' mostly vending machines selling sugary sodas, candy and junk food."\nHarkin hopes to clearly define what foods are and are not permitted for sale in order to promote healthier eating habits.\nStaab said no vending machines are on during the day at elementary schools in Monroe County and restrictions would mainly concern middle and high schools.\n"There are a variety of things that impact wellness for students," Staab said. "Indiana has one of the highest obesity rates and we want to get that under control"

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