Wellness drive seeks healthier kids

On Tuesday, the committee reviewed feedback from parents who attended the Oct. 1 forum about ES-M's wellness program and heard more from the parents attending last Tuesday's meeting.

New regulations in the wellness policy were adopted this year due to state and federal guidelines that forced school districts to set nutrition standards but gave discretion to districts on what those standards should be.

This year restrictions were placed on the foods that can be served in the cafeteria or distributed in class.

According to the draft of administrative regulations for the wellness program, foods and snacks must now fit U.S. Department of Agriculture dietary guidelines, which are:

Eat a variety of nutrient dense food and drink;

Limit total fat to 30 percent of total calories;

Limit saturated fat to less than 10 percent of total calories;

Choose a diet low in cholesterol;

Eat plenty of whole grain products, vegetables, and fruits;

Choose a diet moderate in salt, sodium, and sugar; and

The cafeteria menu has been revamped to meet the USDA guidelines and soft drinks and candy has been removed from the vending machines.

"When I put my head on the pillow every night I know we are doing what is best for every single child," said Superintendent Dr. Donna Desiato in her address to the wellness committee on Nov. 6.

All though no one spoke out against Desiato's sentiments or the intent of the wellness program, some parents felt the policy was going too far. Such an overarching policy has many ripple effects felt throughout the school district.

Students are no longer allowed to bring in candy or pastries for their birthday or other holidays. The committee considered allowing some flexibility with when it comes to special events like Halloween and Thanksgiving, but no decisions were made.

"It's an ongoing process because it affects so many different parts of the school," Neveldine said. "As you can see there is a little bit of a tug-of-war between parents rights and school rights, and part of it is our obligation to make sure we are meeting the federal and state guidelines, because when you bring food in and there are other children in the classroom, some parents don't want them to have sweet snacks, they want healthy snacks."

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