Changing habits

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The Selma Times-Journal

Statistics show that Alabama youth have some of the nation’s highest rates of obesity, diabetes and hypertension.

In response to this, Dr. Joe Morton, Alabama’s state schools superintendent, made a decision during last Tuesday’s State Board of Education meeting to implement the following nutritional policy:

Elementary Schools:

No carbonated soft drinks. Only non-carbonated products.

Middle Schools:

Seventy percent of selections in vending machines must be non-carbonated water, fruit juice, milk products, teas and sports drinks.

Thirty percent of selection can be soft drinks, but half of this group must be low/no calorie.

High Schools:

Fifty percent of vending machine drink selections must be non-carbonated water, fruit juice, milk products, teas and sports drinks.

Fifty percent of selections can be carbonated soft drinks, but half of this group must be low/no calorie.

Vending Fronts:

In elementary and middle schools, all vending machine fronts will picture water or fruit juice.

In high schools, during the 2005-06 school year, vending fronts will picture primarily water and juices, with an occasional soft drink picture allowed.

During the 2006-07 school year, all vending fronts except for those at athletic spectator settings, such as football stadiums, will feature water and juice products.

These changes will take effect at the beginning of the 2005-2006 school year, except in cases where schools have an existing vending contract. The plan will gradually eliminate cafeteria foods that are high in fat and sugar and replace them with more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. It also provides recommendations for physical activity at all grade levels and states that all students in grades K-8 will be taught physical education (P.E.) by certified P.E. teachers by the 2007-2008 school year.

Despite the changes that are to occur, local school system personnel view it as a step in the right direction.

&8220;We’ve been working on this for about three or four years,&8221; said Smyly Kirkpatrick. &8220;Selma City decided – before this ever passed – that we were going to do something about the obesity.&8221;

Kirkpatrick, the Director of Child Nutrition for the Selma City School System said that four years ago, the system began increasing the amount of vegetables in their lunch program, providing daily salads, cutting down on high fat foods and limiting the amount of sodium and carbohydrates.

In addition, Kirkpatrick said that

Selma City schools will include more wheat bread and whole grains in their menus.