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B'ville: Candy or carrot?

It looks like some Baldwinsville teachers got caught with their hands in the cookie jar.

A program designed to help students learn healthier eating habits got off to an uncontroversial start more than a year ago. But now it's running smack into tradition. And it's not clear which side will win: healthy lifestyles, or a teacher's prerogative to reward students with candy, cookies and other tasty but fattening treats for good behavior and hard work.

Baker High School nurse and Baldwinsville wellness council co-leader Shannon Cavedine said changing the status quo, even with the best intentions, isn't always easy.

"Sometimes, there's resistance," said Cavedine. "There's that feeling that it's never going to happen because it's one of their (teachers') big incentives. Maybe they think parties, pizzas, cakes, cookies and candy make the school year more fun. It all depends upon the culture in a particular school."

As the numbers of obese children across the country continue to skyrocket, a more heavy-handed policy on food in the classroom may become necessary. Currently, Baldwinsville wellness officials are surveying staff across the district to determine if schools are prepared for stricter rules to be implemented later in the school year.

Leading Baldwinsville's fight against childhood obesity have been the members of the district's wellness council. Formed in June 2006 in response to a federal mandate requiring all schools participating in the national school lunch program to formulate a health improvement plan for students, the council is still a relatively new entity in the district. So far, the members have spent the last year laying the groundwork for a wide variety of recommendations, including intramural programs, nutritional regulations and an in-classroom breakfast pilot program.

While most initiatives to encourage good nutrition and physical activity among students have been well received by parents, Baker High school nurse and wellness council co-leader Shannon Cavedine said council recommendations to remove candy as a classroom reward have proven to be a sensitive issue and could face more resistance among teachers and parents in the coming year as they become policy.

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