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School board, principals reach food regulation consensus

By Kim Walter -- kwalter@nvdaily.com

The Warren County School Board and principals of all five elementary schools in the district met Thursday night to clear up any misconceptions about the food regulations implemented last December.

The group hoped to address any concerns and come up with concise guidelines that will be administered to every school in the division for staff and parents.

The regulations, the result of a wellness policy adopted by the board in 2008, state that food can not be administered by school staff as a reward for good grades or behavior. It also bans the use of food "as a learning tool where students are required or permitted to consume food."

A majority of parent concern came from other regulations dealing with school celebrations and children's birthdays, which in the past often involved food.

"I agree with the premise of not using food to celebrate a child's birthday at school," said board member Kimberly Athey. "Many teachers have the child's name up somewhere in the classroom, and their name is called over the loudspeaker, so there are other ways for them to be recognized."

Athey also noted that the process can be costly for parents, and can cause more problems when certain students have allergies or medical complications.

Board members and the principals agreed parents should no longer send treats in with their children on their birthday.

Superintendent Pamela McInnis said many schools struggled with the regulation because when certain cultural units are taught, they often utilize food as a teaching tool.

Margaret Holmes, principal of E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School, gave the example of when her students visit an apple orchard for a day.

"Usually, they would bring back the apples they picked, and we would use them to make apple butter and apple sauce so the children learn the different uses of apples," she said. "But we changed that and just sent the apples home with students."

Joey Waters, Principal at Hilda J. Barbour Elementary School, said during units where children would learn about Native Americans, they would usually have a day full of related activities; one of them was making cornbread. Similarly, on "Greece and Rome Day" students were able to sample traditional foods that would've been eaten at that time.

"But, we learned we could do these things without food," she said. "We didn't think we could, but we did."

McInnis pointed out that these regulations were only effective during the school day, so if a school wanted to hold an after-school event to feature cuisine of another culture, that was fine.

Waters also brought up the fact that some children have a later lunch than others, and need a mid-morning snack. Likewise, those with earlier lunches need a snack in the afternoon.

"Of course we encourage students to bring something healthy, but it doesn't always work that way," she said.

"Kids don't learn well if they're hungry," said Chairman Roy Boyles. It was agreed that in these circumstances, snacks were permitted. As for what drinks students should be allowed to bring to school, the majority agreed it should only be water.

"It's sticky, it spills, and by the time they get to lunch, it's all fizzed up," Holmes said.

Schools will most likely be able to hold up to three celebrations during the year. Board member Joanne Cherefko asked the principals if they felt they needed food for celebrations and special events, but the principals said they had learned to do without it, and could continue that way.

"We shot ourselves in the food with this regulation," said board member James Wells. "Our own personnel talked it down, and now we're trying to wrestle it back in again. The intent never was, never is, to suck the fun out of school...I think these just need to be guidelines."

Athey reminded everyone that the reason the regulations came about was because of the wellness policy and an attempt to teach healthy habits -- exercise and food related -- to students.

All those in attendance agreed that exceptions to the guidelines would be made for special education students, as well as those with IEPs.

McInnis plans to put the final consensus from Thursday night into writing, and then present it at the September 13 school board meeting. From there, the letter outlining what is and isn't permitted, will go out to all schools so that each staff member and parent understands the guidelines.


And people wonder why our students do so poorly in school. Perhaps instead of worrying about these kinds of stupid things and instead focused on curriculum, learning, and the "3 R's" we'd do better.
I wonder how many of us did just fine with the lunch hours we were given without *choke* snacks. And my oh my how awful those parties with *gasp* cupcakes and cookies were. My God, how on earth did any of us survive?
Seems to me that our students learned more, were more creative, and were happier before the department of education was begun under Carter and the Fed started mandating how our children learned.
I wonder how much of our "school budget" went to these meetings to discuss this waste of time. Wow. ...I can't wait for Michelle Obama to leave office and stop mandating our and our children's food choices. (oh, sorry I meant Mr. Obama, Michelle's husband.)

BTW...I know this was our school board's decision, but we all know where the food guidelines come from...

LMAO, everything is all Obama's fault all the time, right?

THIS stemmed from a lawsuit brought against WCPS by a parent of a diabetic student being repeatedly given sugar even after the school was notified.

Get. Your. Head. Out. Of. Your. Rear.

I have mixed feelings about this decision to regulate the way food is incorporated at school. As a teacher I believe that intrinsic rewards (knowing you've worked hard to achieve a goal) are preferable to being rewarded with food, stickers, or prizes of any sort. Though some may not see the harm in birthday cupcakes at school I can tell you by experience they are a distraction and interruption of the instructional day. It puts teachers in the position of choosing whether to sacrifice instructional time or recess time in order to fit in a celebration--neither of which should be given up. I've also had students with allergies watch as their classmates enjoy these treats while they are 'left out' because it could be dangerous to their health. I do feel it is a shame to do away with using food as an instructional tool. Sometimes it can be those experiences which ignite a spark of interest in learning for some students. In cases of allergies or restrictions teachers will use items that are accessible by all so that every student can participate. It is a shame that it seems that the baby was thrown out with the bath water with this new policy.

Since the Superintendent and School Board members aren't nutritionists, their opinions are totally invalid. They should look at the menus the children are subjected to on a daily basis and measure that against the waste. Adults (and first ladies ) should let children be children, at least occasionally..........

Understood. I remember reading "Stone Soup" in elementary school and we actually made soup in class, stone and all. It made the book fun. It is a shame to lose things such as that and not have found the middle ground.

Ultimately though, this policy is safer for the school system I would imagine in avoiding future lawsuits as well as getting rid of the "puppy treat" teaching. As you stated, children should learn for the value of it and not a piece of candy on completion.

Yes, Katybug, for "some people" everything---every time--is President Obama's fault. The earthquake we experienced here last year? Yep---Obama's fault! Lack of rain in the area? You guessed it----Obama's fault! These decisions made by Warren County School Board ? Oh yes---- President Obama (and of course Michelle) is at the bottom of all of this! And we could go on and on and on--------! But your answer sure did give me a good laugh in an otherwise busy day!

Stop and Think, you have brought out some really good points. Unfortunately, too many times it is true that the "baby is thrown out with the bathwater".

I also agree with you that, as you put it, though some may not see the harm in birthday cupcakes being brought to school, it is disruptive to that time in which there should be instruction going on. I have never been a fan of celebrating a child's birthday at school for numerous reasons.

There also seem to be so many children today who have allergies presenting two problems: the first of which you had mentioned with a child feeling left out because he can't have that particular food being served (or as Katybug had mentioned with the diabetic child with food restrictions). The other is where a child inadvertently is given the food and he has a severe reaction.

I applaud the school board for making this decision. The candy rewards had really gotten out of hand in the last few years. My children used to bring home a piece or two of candy that had snowballed into ziploc sandwich bags full of candy. I am glad an end has been put to this.

Birthdays can be celebrated without food. How about small gifts for each child in the class, such as pencils or bookmarks. Another idea is to donate a book to the classroom library in the birthday child's name.

Yes, Song, you are right on this. Now, think about the conservative side. As we have pointed out before, everything either is blamed on the Bush Administration, Fox New, the Tea Party, the Catholics with a hint now at other Faiths, or the "good ole boy" network. Very interesting. However, in the final end, we do all want the same things for our Country!!!

sjf, we agree on this----we all are concerned about our children and the best for them as well as the fact that we all care about our country.

Now, and I realize this is off-topic from this article, but just to address your comment about "blame" since you have brought it up----there is a whole lot of difference between pointing out what has transpired in the past---what is fact----compared to blaming someone you don't like for everything and anything to the point of foolishness. Example: It is a fact that President Bush entered his presidency with a surplus at the end of Bill Clinton's presidency and 8 years later at the end of Mr. Bush's two terms ( after an unpaid for drug plan, and two unpaid for wars, and I believe not one single spending bill did Mr. Bush veto), by the time President Obama enters office we have a deficit. It is a fact that President Obama walks into office at the time of the worst economic situation since the Great Depression. Now you may call that blaming the Bush administration, but those are facts whether someone likes them or not---they are the facts.

Now, my earlier comment is meant to show how ludicrous it is when one poster goes so far as to blame President Obama (and his wife Michelle) for a decision MADE BY the Warren County School Board. It has reached the point of silliness. No, I take it back---silliness is when you are talking about a 6 year old child. It is pathetic when you are talking about an adult who one would hope has some sense.

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