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School wellness policy gets first OK

July 12, 2006|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN - Children are eating too much and not moving enough, facts that might be contributing to poor performance in school, according to Washington County Public Schools officials.

The Board of Education unanimously approved the first reading of a proposed wellness policy during a meeting Tuesday. Board President W. Edward Forrest was absent.

The proposed policy has guidelines for the types of food and beverages available to students at school and also the type and frequency of physical activity. Nutrition and health education also are included.

The proposed policy was drafted to comply with the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 that required school systems participating in the National School Lunch Program to have a wellness policy in place by the first day of the 2006-07 school year.

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Officials cited information from the National Association of State Boards of Education and said, "Health and success in schools are interrelated."

Beverages sold at Washington County schools will be limited to water, non-carbonated flavored water, milk and juice with no less than 50 percent fruit/vegetable juice, according to documents presented to the board. Beverages may only contain sugar as a sweetener, and not artificial sweeteners.

Items such as soda are prohibited from being sold at school from 12:01 a.m. until 30 minutes after the end of the instructional day on school days, documents state.

"We can do so much in a school day and hopefully after the school day we have an impact on students' lives and in the community," said board member Roxanne R. Ober.

Student representative Sarah Miller, who was on the committee that drafted the proposed plan, said students she spoke with were "iffy" about not being able to purchase soda during school hours.

Nutrition guidelines were also specified for food provided during lunch, in vending machines, during classroom celebrations and sold during fundraisers, according to the document.

The proposed wellness plan requires each elementary school to promote daily recess, preferably outdoors. Middle schools will promote extracurricular and/or co-curricular physical activity programs, such as clubs and intramurals.

Board Member Wayne D. Ridenour said instead of promoting a daily recess activity, the program should offer recess daily.

"If you promote it, that doesn't mean you are actually doing it," he said. "It's not an absolute that there has to be recess for a certain amount of time."

Board members said there should be a method in place to track the progress of the wellness program and have a set goal in place to work toward.

Officials said there should be clear standards set to gauge whether the policy is effective.

"(The policy) sounds good. It looks good. People will feel good about it," said board member Russell F. Williams. "And whether it will have any particular effect on the lack of exercise and obesity problem ... who knows?"

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