Special Report Part Two: School Health

Mesa County School District 51 is leading the country when it comes to making healthy food accessible to its high school students. In June the district adopted a wellness policy in compliance with a federal mandate. So far its done more than just comply... They are using the latest in technology to make it's policy one–of–a–kind.

Over the summer the cafeteria at Fruita Monument High School got a complete makeover, something District 51 is hoping to do eventually at all of it's schools. New serving lines were added at the school, and booths and tables with swivel chairs now make up the seating area.

The cafeteria wasn't the only thing to get a makeover. The menu did too. Chef salads, sandwich wraps, chicken cordon blue and whole grain waffles are all new additions. Sure favorites like pizza and hamburgers still exist, but all breads have been switched to whole wheat.

Thanks to a new online program called Meal Pay Plus, parents can manage their kids lunch account over the Internet. School officials say it helps children on restricted diets and kids don't have to carry lunch money and worry about losing. It also makes the lunch lines go a lot quicker because all a student has to do is enter a pin number. Parents can also get a good idea of what their child is eating.

Meal Pay Plus is also linked to new vending machines which can be found at the high schools. Hard boiled eggs, fresh orange slices and salads are just a few of the healthy choices ready to be dispensed. The machine also helps a student put together a complete meal by prompting them to choose an entree, three sides and a milk.

Mesa County is the first district to have healthy cashier–less vending machines. All of the food is made fresh from scratch in the school's cafeteria each day. While that does means added work for the food service provider, school officials agree; making healthy choices accessible is well worth it.

Meal Pay Plus is available in every school in District 51. The service is also free.