ithin the past year, the Arizona Department of Education established nutrition standards for students in kindergarten through eighth grade and amended an existing law that requires schools to serve healthier foods and beverages for all K-8 students by July 1.
The amended law still requires K-8 compliance, but gives administrators at the high school level the option of eliminating high-fat, high-sugar foods and drinks like candy bars and colas from school campuses. Most area high schools have voluntarily complied with the nutritional standards, which, according to the Arizona Department of Education Web site, education officials created to combat obesity, among other children's health issues.
Grades 9-12 are exempt from the rules, according to Jim Souder, principal at Bradshaw Mountain High School.
"The state adopted a wellness policy that is K-8 specific," Souder said. "The high schools, I think, are trying to work the best we can to comply and try to combat obesity."
Schools receiving federal subsidies for free and reduced rate meals for low-income students under the National School Lunch Program are automatically restricted from selling certain high-fat, high-sugar products, Souder said. Bradshaw Mountain and Chino Valley high schools and Mayer Junior-Senior High School all receive federal funding.
"When we have a federal lunch program, we have to have the (vending) mach-ines off most of the day," said Souder who added that no sodas containing sugar are sold at his school and instead, students are offered diet soda, bottled water, sports drinks or juice. "Schools make an awful lot of money off of it," Souder said. "Money is not the root of all evil. We have to find a way to replace the money we lost (from the reduction in beverage sales)."
In Chino Valley, Assistant Principal John Scholl said students cannot buy soda at the school. "Early last spring," Scholl said, "we got together with PepsiŠ to phase out sodas at the high school. With input from the student council, we decided to raise the prices of sodasŠto drive kids to make healthier choices."
At Mayer Junior-Senior High School, no candy or carbonated beverages are sold. "Because our junior high school is there, (senior high students) cannot have access to (soda or candy)," said Susie Allen, Food Services Director as she referred to the recent nutrition standards concerning K-8 students.
"We don't need to sell that at school. It's a good thing, getting rid of the sodas," Allen said.
Unlike other area high schools, Prescott High School does not receive federal funding for free or reduced meals, according to Barbara Van Foffen, director of food services. Prescott is also the only high school that is an open campus, allowing students to leave the grounds during the day and buy food or snacks elsewhere, such as at a local Starbucks.
"The high school is not on a federal program, so we can still sell candy," Van Foffen said. "We limit it to Snickers."
Van Foffen also emphasized the dilemma facing all schools: how to generate money for student activities without selling popular items like Coca-Cola or Pepsi.
"We have to generate our own revenue," Van Foffen said. "We're competing with all the outside sources where kids can drive or walk to."
Van Foffen said that while she could "take out all the sodas right now," and the students would simply leave the campus to pick up a soda or burger. "If I want to cut my throat, I do have a choice of cutting revenue" by eliminating the sale of certain foods and beverages on campus.
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