The Juneau School District is hoping students will go bananas for healthy foods next year, instead of for candy.
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The Juneau School Board is scheduled to vote on a revised student nutrition plan at its final meeting of the fiscal year on Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the Juneau-Douglas High School library.
The new policy would ban the sale of what the U.S. Department of Agriculture has labeled "foods of minimal nutritional value." Four categories fall under that label, FMNV, most of which are favorites with school children: soda water, water ices, chewing gum and certain candies.
The federal government is requiring that all districts develop and use policies to deal with student nutrition and physical activity before the next school year begins.
"These days, with all of the difficulties with obesity and childhood diabetes and that, the new policy really is an opportunity to educate kids about proper nutritional practices," School Board member Margo Waring said.
Superintendent Peggy Cowan said the district has been working on developing a nutrition policy since 2004, before it became federally mandated. She said the new policy would help create a better learning environment for the students.
"It affirms the district's focus on the importance of health and wellness for students' success," she said. "It also acknowledges that it's a partnership between the home and the school to reach that goal of wellness."
School Board member Mary Becker said many of the schools have already begun reducing the sales of soda and other non-nutritional food items. She said further limitations to what students can purchase on campus could be good for student health, but have a negative effects on student activities, which generate funds through vending machine sales.
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"I think one of the areas that we'll really have to work on is the funding that comes from some of the sales," she said.
Cowan said many districts see an original dip in sales, which reverses over time. She said each school has its own contracts and keeps its own accounts on money generated from vending machine sales.
Sonja Engle, a school nurse at JDHS, said poor nutrition can lead to adverse effects on students in the classroom. She said students often come to her with headaches, stomach aches and other ailments when they do not eat properly.
"There is a lot of lost classroom time because kids don't start off with a healthy breakfast and healthy snacks throughout the day," she said.
Although the new policy would ban the sale of FMNV on campus, it would not stop students from obtaining soda or candy from home or off campus. Engle said it is important to have a policy in place, but there also needs to be a proper amount of information to help kids make wise nutritional decisions.
"Daily I see kids eating non-nutritious food," she said, "going off campus, eating junk food, fast food or not even eating at all."
If the policy passes on Tuesday as developed, Waring said students and parents would be receiving more information about nutrition.
"Over all there will be an increase of informative materials that goes out for parents on the subject," she said.
The policy would also limit the number of days students could have FMNV in student events. The policy limits the restricted food to up to four events each year that would be determined on a school-by-school basis.
Becker said the policy would take some getting used to for some people.
"We will probably be working this out and taking care of any concerns people have as we go," she said.
Becker said she thinks parents and the community would support having a nutrition policy in place.
"I feel people in this town will be cooperative. I can't imagine parents wouldn't want to support their children being healthier, and this is the goal."