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Salad instead of sugar

School policy suggests healthier choices for kids

School policy suggests healthier choices for kids

February 07, 2007|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

The fifth-grade teacher at Boonsboro Elementary School described the classroom parties of his youth as a "sugar fest."

"We would have had pizza, chips and candy, junk like that," said Jeremy White, 29.

But things have changed.

Back in the day, parents would have brought in loads of snacks - pizza, cupcakes, cookies and soda pop - to the classroom parties at the school, White said.

Washington County Public Schools have a new wellness policy that forces schools to serve healthy, well-balanced meals during lunch and nixes the sale of junk food during school hours. Part of the policy is to strongly suggest that parents provide healthier options for gatherings such as classroom parties, explained board spokeswoman Carol Mowen.

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

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School districts in West Virginia and Pennsylvania have adopted similar policies.

Public schools in Washington County, however, have no oversight on the things parents pack in their children's lunches, Mowen said.

For classroom parties, students might find cheese and fruit, veggie platters and salads taking the place of those cupcakes - as was the case at a classroom party in White's class earlier this year. The class had a pizza party that included those healthy sides, White said.

Leslie Cochran, one of White's parent volunteers, helped plan the party. Initially, she said she was skeptical of one of White's menu suggestions.

"I looked at him and said, 'Salad?' But they ate all of it and they had seconds." Cochran said. "They really did like the lettuce. It's a step in the right direction."

Cochran said her 10-year-old daughter, Jamie, has been making healthier food choices on her own since the changes in the school policy were enacted this year.

"She truly eats better than me," Cochran said.

Maria Poholchuk is the parent representative on the school board's Wellness Nutrition Advisory Committee and helped shape the board's current policy.

She said schools shouldn't have the entire burden when it comes to teaching children about healthy eating.

"Personally, I would love to see a ban (on all junk food), but you would see an enormous line of infuriated parents," Poholchuk said. "Parents don't want to admit that they don't know what to do with their children when it comes to nutrition."

Boonsboro principal J. Scott Woods said there are typically three to four classroom parties per class each year. He said the policy initially caused confusion among parents.

"They first thought we were going to be taking items out of kids' lunchboxes," Woods said.

Another rumor, Woods said, was that there would be an all-out ban on junk food at classroom parties.

"We were never doing that. We never would," Woods said.

Leslie LeBlanc, president of the Washington County Council of Parent Teacher Associations, said the school board did a good job at getting the word out about the nuances of the new policy. But she said some confusion still remained.

"I'm still getting calls from parents," LeBlanc said.




But it's just a cupcake ...



In order to stay in tune with updated nutritional guidelines, the Washington County Public Schools system offers the following food ideas for parents:

· Instead of soda, use low-fat or nonfat plain or flavored milk, 100-percent fruit juice, flavored/sparkling water without added sugar or sweeteners, or sparkling punch.

· Fresh fruit assortment, dried fruit or 100-percent fruit snacks.

· Vegetable trays with low-fat dip

· Whole-grain crackers with cheese cubes, string cheese or hummus

· Pretzels, low-fat popcorn, rice cakes, bread sticks, graham crackers or animal crackers

· Angel food cake, plain or topped with fruit

· Bagel slices with peanut butter or jam, fruit or grain muffin (low-fat) or whole-wheat English muffin

· Pizza with low-fat toppings - veggies, lean ham, Canadian bacon

· Ham, cheese or turkey wraps

· Low-fat pudding or yogurt, yogurt parfaits or banana splits - banana-flavored yogurt topped with cereal, granola or crushed graham crackers

· Quesadillas or bean burrito with salsa; low-fat tortilla chips with salsa or bean dip

· Low-fat breakfast or granola bars, trail/cereal mix, and nuts and seeds.

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