Healthy Kids Act brings changes to lunch room, school

Healthy Kids Act

The Cedar Falls School District is striving to keep up with the latest state law, which addresses new daily health needs for students and officials. The      Healthy Kids Act (HKA)  was passed and went into affect July 1.  Its goals are to develop healthy eating habits and promote active lifestyles for all students.         Health and nutrition is a real and growing concern in the country right now. The numbers of obese and overweight adults have been growing steadily since 1991. Currently Iowa’s obesity rate for adults is 27.6 percent and 11.2 percent for children ages ten through seventeen. A specific study on highschoolers showed that twelve percent are obese and 15.8 percent are overweight.

The HKA addresses all foods sold to students in the school district, including anything from fund raising, bake sales, vending machines and classroom projects, to ala carte snacks. Athletic Director Troy Becker put it like this, “If it’s something the school offers, it needs to fall under the HKA rules.”

There is no funding coming in from the HKA, but the USDA funding for school meals increased by about 4 cents per meal this year, according to Food Service Supervisor LaVonne Arndt.

Foods offered must meet nutritional standards for calories, sodium, fat, and sugar. Also, 50 percent of all grains offered must be whole grains.

“Students may notice the absence of some of the more sugary favorites or smaller portion sizes of foods like cookie bars,” Arndt said. “[Also] beverages with carbonation are not allowed. This includes the 100 percent juices with some small amount of carbonation.”

And that’s not all. In coming years the amount of sodium and fat in foods offered will have to decrease even further. The HKA has plans to keep cutting down gradually over a span of several years.

Some students have heard that ala carte will disappear.

“[This is] just a rumor,” Arndt said. “There will be foods offered ala carte, just not the variety students have become accustomed to.”

The main lunch line will not be seeing many changes other than several foods offered ala carte will now be put with other nutrition-filled side dishes and served as a meal (for example, pizza with fruits, vegetables and milk).

“Companies are stepping up to the plate and developing foods that will meet the new rules.  Companies like Kellogg and Frito are working on meeting the guidelines,” Arndtb said.  “The hope is that students will develop healthy eating habits. We certainly hope that students will think about their food choices whether it is at school or at home.”

Although this was the intention, not all students are praising the cuts.

“I don’t eat at lunch now, I just have a Gatorade. I am very upset [about the HKA]. I just go home and pig out and don’t eat at school,” said sophomore Ashley Griffin.

“It should be a kid’s choice to eat healthy, it shouldn’t be the school making kids do it.  There should be some healthy foods but also some things you can enjoy.  They [students] are gonna eat junk food at home anyways.  I don’t eat at lunch anymore,” said junior Donita Clark.

The HKA also affects physical activity and requires CPR training. It is now required that high schoolers have 120 minutes of physical activity per week.

“A goal for next year is to make a serious change in physical education, an improvement,” Becker said.  “With the budget cuts from this year it would have been pretty difficult.”

What many schools are doing to meet the physical education requirement is counting sports as the students activity. Therefore if students are in a sport they could opt out of the PE requirement for as long as the sport is going. However, Cedar Falls has not decided if it will be doing this or not. According to Becker, the Physical Education Program Grant which gave money to the schools in the district for PE equipment, will be helpful in meeting these standards.

“The PEP Grant will help meet the requirements,” Becker said. Many students have been using the new cardio room that the PEP Grant funded just last year. He commented that they are still deciding what to do to meet the CPR requirement.

“Starting next year, CF needs to decide if they are going to offer hands on CPR. Recent research says compression only CPR is the way to go, and this will be easier to teach our students.”

The school is waiting for the recommendation to get the right teaching methods going. For more information on the exact rules of the HKA, visit www.tinyurl.com/iowa-hka.

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