School district sees progress in first year of wellness goals

It’s not easy cutting calories.

Just ask Lawrence school district administrators, who spent the year stripping high-calorie and fatty offerings from menus and urging students and employees to exercise.

“We feel that most of what we’re doing is changing attitudes to change behaviors,” said Lynda Allen, district director of math and science, which includes physical education and health.

District staff on Monday reported to the school board their progress on wellness goals set about a year ago.

More than 75 percent of nutrition and nutrition education goals have been met, staff reported. Whole-grain foods are offered daily. Vending machines include healthier options. A la carte lunch items have less fat and calories than before. And more students are dropping their habit of eating a la carte snacks and buying meals instead.

But it’s still a challenge to curb the practices of selling unhealthy foods for fundraising and using treats for classroom rewards, said Paula Murrish, the district’s food services director.

“Trying to be creative and to break a habit is difficult,” Murrish said.

Murrish said the most resistance to change has been found at the secondary school level, where many students have grown used to eating sugary snacks and griped about the change in food offerings.

The effort will continue into the upcoming school year when the goals include attempting to give students at least 20 minutes for lunch, ensuring food and drink offered during class parties and celebrations meet basic guidelines, and pressing for recess to provide at least one staff-led moderate physical activity.

“It’s certainly a commendable start,” school board president Sue Morgan said.

In other business, the board set a July 23 public hearing to consider a neighborhood revitalization plan near Eighth and Pennsylvania streets.