Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District Superintendent Barry Groves is seeking the city’s assistance in changing the dietary choices made by some of his students.
Groves is asking the Los Altos City Council to consider creating a city ordinance that would ban mobile food vendors on the city’s residential streets. The council was slated to discuss the matter at its Tuesday meeting – past the Town Crier’s press deadline.
Groves outlined a request to discuss the matter in an email to the council last week, noting that some food trucks parked near Los Altos High School serve unhealthful menu items at lunch.
“Currently, our students are eating food from these vendors that cannot be served on our campus because it is unhealthy – high in sugar, fat and salt, all contributors to childhood obesity,” said Groves, noting that his concern was shared by some residents living near Los Altos High.
Restrictions for food trucks?
Groves told the Town Crier that food trucks can be found daily near the school’s tennis court along Jardin Drive. He added that mobile food vendors’ presence near the campus increased when the school boosted its healthful food options.
However, unlike the popular gourmet food truck trend often seen in metropolitan areas, the mobile vendors near the high school sell items to students that can’t be found on campus – candy bars, sugary sodas, quesadillas and more. Groves said he would rather see students who leave campus for lunch patronize downtown businesses.
“Some of the choices within walking distance (downtown) offer healthier choices, whereas the mobile food vendors offer none,” he said, adding that the district stands to lose approximately $40,000 in school lunch revenue annually because of the mobile food vendors’ presence near campus.
Groves said he hopes the city will consider an ordinance similar to one passed earlier this year by the city of Mountain View. The Mountain View ordinance prohibits mobile vendors on certain roadways, including portions of Castro and Dana streets. The ordinance also contains a distance restriction requiring mobile vendors on the public right-of-way to stay 100 feet from school boundaries.
Stemming the rise in obesity
Groves added that school districts throughout California are now offering healthful food items as a means to quell a rise in childhood obesity.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the percentage of obese adolescents ages 12-19 in the U.S. more than tripled – from 5 to 18 percent – between 1980 and 2010. In addition, a 2011 national Youth Risk Behavior study found that 13 percent of high school students nationwide were considered obese by CDC standards.
“One thing we do know is that if students are overweight and make bad (dietary) choices during their formative years, they’ll continue to make those same choices later in life,” said Groves, who conceded that convincing students to adopt healthier eating habits can be an uphill battle at times.
Still, Groves said vending machines on the Los Altos High campus no longer contain sodas and offer food items like baked potato chips as alternatives. While the campus does serve more teen-friendly items such as pizza, all foods sold on campus must meet or exceed federal and state nutrition standards, he added.