Nov 15, 2007 Eagle Newspapers Uncategorized
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.
In hopes of encouraging teachers to use more healthy rewards, the wellness council has filled kits with non-food rewards that are already being used in some classrooms. For teachers who still want to use food rewards, council members have compiled a list of healthier food options, like dried fruits or vegetables in place of cupcakes.
“People are coming forward and saying, ‘It’s about time. I’m sick of my kid coming home saying they had M&M’s and a cupcake that day,'” Cavedine said. “Then kids say, ‘I’ve done something good, and this is how I reward myself.’ That’s such an unhealthy thing.”
The mother of two Baldwinsville students, Melanie Shum, 33, said she would support a ban on junk food in the classroom for her children, ages 8 and 10.
“I grew up at a time when, if you fell down, it was ‘Oh, have a cookie,'” she said. “We self-medicated. It teaches you that you should have candy or food as a reward for being good.”
Suzanne Dibble, 42, a Baldwinsville resident and a mother of four, said she encourages her kids to stay healthy by playing outside. But as someone who once worked with students in a classroom, Dibble said she is torn on the issue of removing sweets as rewards.
“I have mixed feelings,” she said. “Candy is a huge incentive. There’s a lot of crap in the cafeteria they the kids don’t need, and I think they don’t need to sell as much as they do. But in the classroom, you have to find something to motivate them. And it has to be something cheap, because that money comes out of the teacher’s pocket.”
Florence Kliphon, 70, of Cicero, whose granddaughter attends Elden Elementary, said she would favor fewer snacks in the classroom, but said she understands that it may be more difficult to buy healthier treats.
“Maybe if they can get something a little healthier besides frosting, like carrot or spice cake,” she said. “But if you can’t make it, and you have to buy it, that’s hard.”
Cavedine said she understands how changing the reward culture within district schools can create resistance, but said she and other council members are hoping to bridge the gap with parents and community members this year, getting them involved in health programs as positive role models for Baldwinsville students.
“I don’t want people to just sit back and give ideas and not act on those ideas,” said Cavedine. “A lot is just the spirit behind it. I don’t want the wellness plan to just be a document on our website. Each year has an approach and a mission of its own.”
Jackie Shostack, a public health education supervisor who works with school districts across Onondaga County, praised the Baldwinsville wellness council for its enthusiasm and drive.
“Contrasting what they’re doing with some districts, not necessarily in Onondaga County, but districts across New York state that have policies that are not living, breathing documents like they should be; Baldwinsville has really embraced making change for the better of the students,” she said. “I’m impressed by the fact that they’ve embraced what they needed to do – make a commitment to make a change for the better of the students and hopefully the employees as well.”
Parent and wellness council member Sue Sprague said she’s excited about the many programs that the council has implemented.
“They’re really moving in the direction of wellness,” she said. “They’re gradually reducing unhealthy choices, and kids are actually going for it. It’s really encouraging kids to think about health.”
For more information on the Baldwinsville wellness council go to bville.org/WELLNESS/home.htm.
New fitness trail open
Baldwinsville School District has a new fitness trail for public use. The one-mile trail, designed by students, includes 10 fitness stations targeting abdominal muscles, legs, triceps, shoulders and chest muscles. The equipment is appropriate for elementary students and older. Students, staff, and community members are welcome. Dogs are not permitted.