Washoe School Trustees Consider Pilot NutritionProgram

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Junk food would be banned from student vending machines and school fund-raising efforts under a pilot program to be considered by Washoe County school trustees.

The proposal follows a two-year study by the school district's food and beverage committee. It would also ban fund-raising sales of high-calorie, low nutritional foods such as chocolate and doughnuts to students during school hours.

No rules are being proposed for food brought from home.

Under the plan, prohibited items for students would include potato chips, candy, soft drinks, chocolate milk and chili cheese fries. Vending machines that serve teachers and staff, however, would be exempt.

One high school, middle school and elementary school would be asked to volunteer for the program, though some say finding volunteers might be difficult.

"Not too many kids would like it," McQueen High School sophomore Patrick Delaplain told the Reno Gazette-Journal. "It doesn't taste good."

Some administrators also worry about the plan's effect on fund raising. Schools and school-sponsored organizations in Washoe County earned more than $1.1 million last year through the sale of food not served as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs, a district study last year showed.

But at least one trustee said feeding students junk food to raise money should be stopped.

"We have no business prostituting our children's health," trustee Jody Ruggiero said. "I don't believe we should engage in any activity that impacts our children's health in a negative way in the name of money."

No formal action by the board is expected Tuesday, but Ruggiero said she hopes trustees will endorse the proposal.

"Poor nutrition will lead to a lifetime of health problems," she said.

A federal study released last week showed a significant rise in obesity in the United States. Poor diet and physical inactivity caused 400,000 deaths in 2000, a 33 percent jump over 1990, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"If we don't start doing something voluntarily, the federal government could step in because we have such a huge problem with child obesity," said Lisa Hill, a registered dietitian and a member of the food and beverage committee.