Sugary soft drinks have long been blamed in part for America’s growing obesity problem, but in the Rolla School District, officials have already been making changes to encourage students to choose healthier options.
“In our vending machines, we don’t do soda anymore,” said Larry Green, director of food service for Rolla Public Schools. “We took soda out a couple of years ago.”
Vending machines at the schools offer water and juices. Sports drinks are not sold until after school or on the weekends, Green said.
Starting with next year’s implementation of posting calorie information on vending machines, many believe that will have a positive impact on waistlines.
Green said he has not seen much come down the line in regards to if or when calorie counts would be posted on vending machines at Rolla schools.
However, for food sold out of carts at schools, Green said there may possibly be more control over the items available.
He has seen calorie information posted on other school districts’s websites, which show calorie counts of food served in their cafeterias and on their menus. Not only is calorie information posted, but so are sodium, fat, sugar and carbohydrate amounts.
Green said posting calorie and other nutritional information on the Rolla School District’s website may occur in the future.
“I do get questions asked of me by the kids who have to follow a strict diet and it’s a courtesy to customers — and schools are no different,” Green said of posting calorie information. “As time goes on, we’d like to add those little perks.”
Green said even though new school lunch guidelines were implemented at school districts nationwide at the beginning of this school year, “We made changes a long way back, such as taking out soda and fryers ... We have been doing things healthywise a long time before this.”
Among the guidelines that the Rolla School District is following is offering an increased serving size of fruits and vegetables through salad bars and setting both maximum and minimum calorie counts.
Students in middle school and junior high can pick their options of fruit, Green said, but noted that at the elementary level, cafeteria workers “put all of it (fruits and vegetables) on their plate for them.”
The guidelines are aimed at trying to control calories.
“This year, it applies to lunch, but next year, it will be for both breakfast and lunch,” Green said.
“A lot of kids want to do salads. They do surprise you,” Green said, but also noted on the flip side, there are some students who don’t like certain vegetables and fruits and because the calories are limited, he said some students feel they don’t get as much to eat — especially student athletes.
Page 2 of 2 - Though Green said students always have the option to buy more if they wish.