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The School Committee has revamped its health and wellness policy but is looking for input from the community before it’s enacted. Many of the policy’s initiatives aren’t new but are more clearly defined and organized, School Committeewoman Carolyn Mark said at a recent meeting. In addition, the policy was brought into line with state and federal guidelines.

For instance, foods that can be sold at school need to be USDA-defined “smart snacks,” including nuts, seeks, fruits, vegetables and low-fat yogurt. Healthier beverages, under state law, include water, fruit juice with no added sugar, and vegetable-based drinks. 

The policy also says the district’s food service company “will maximize the procurement and serving of fresh, seasonal, locally grown produce.” At the School Committee meeting June 17, Chairman David Green questioned that addition. In particular, Green said he worried that could be expensive and suggested the inclusion of the words, “whenever practical.”

The guidelines are less strict for after-school events, although the policy “strongly encourages” that healthy options are offered.

As has been the case for the past few years, homemade baked goods are not allowed to be sold at schools. The reason is two-fold: “to support a healthy school environment” and “to avoid potential food-borne illness and to reduce allergic reactions.” 

For events where snacks are sold after school, the policy says “healthy compliant alternatives will be made available for every food category” on offer. At the high school snack bars run by the Booster Club, the athletic director is to “review and monitor” food and drinks for sale. 

That aspect of the policy prompted the most discussion at the June 17 meeting, with Green calling that potentially “Bloomberg-esque,” referring to New York City’s former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who tried to enact a ban on “big gulp” size drinks and other food-related measures.

“Our goal here was not to completely strip the Booster Club’s ability to fundraise,” Mark said. “It’s not saying what they can’t sell, but that healthy alternatives will be provided.”

But Green noted that the snack bar is only open after school and that Carcieri Field is on town – not school – property, suggesting this was “overreach” on the part of the new policy.

In the portion of the policy devoted to recess and movement, a clause has been added to discourage both using certain physical activities as punishment, and withholding recess as a form of punishment:

“Teachers and other school and community personnel will not use physical activity (e.g. running, laps, push-ups) or withhold opportunities for physical activity (e.g. recess, physical education) as punishment, unless there is a compelling safety concern.”

“I think the research shows it’s the kid who’s acting out who needs recess the most,” said Mark.

Additionally, the new policy states, when recess is held indoors it “shall include opportunities for physical movement and play.”

The School Committee will have a second reading of the policy (which you can find here) at its meeting Tuesday, July 15. The committee would like input – you can reach Carolyn Mark with any questions or comments at carolynmark@mac.com.