Well Into the Summer

One glance around the table proves that summer is upon us, short sleeves and cool beverages abound. Dorothea Hooper, School Board member, had a Coke that she was complaining about. “This stuff is awful,” she said, “but there wasn’t any water for me to buy.” She purchased it from a machine in the staff lounge. Luckily student vending machines offer only water and 100% juice.

This might be the big Wellness Policy planning session, but the group appears smaller than that of the previous meeting. June is a hectic month for all. The purpose of the meeting is to summarize what has been achieved by the council over the past year then submit a report to the School Board.

The most accurate and appealing way to communicate what was addressed is to write straight from the agenda set forth. Thanks to preplanning by Laurie Verville, Business Manager and head of the council, the meeting format was well organized.

Current Policy Highlights:
1. Nutrition education is integrated in as many areas of the curriculum as possible including health, physical education and science instruction. There are also wellness signs in the cafeterias and the district has a culinary program. Nurses work with students who have medical needs like diabetes.

2. The School Meals Program will work to offer several balanced meal choices to students on a daily basis. Food Service Director Mark Covell stated that the cafés are gradually moving away from canned fruit and more fresh fruit like apples, oranges and mini bananas will be offered when affordable. Currently, dark leafy greens are added to the iceberg salad mix two to three times per week. Fresh broccoli florets were added in 2007/2008, and zucchini and carrot sticks will be on the menu in 2008/2009. Breaded items are being reduced, and the food in the elementary schools will be improved all around—bravo!

3. Faculty, staff and the school community will work together to promote and reinforce healthy lifestyle habits during school hours, and for after school activities sponsored by the district. As of 2007/2008 there was not a Parent Teacher Association (PTA) or Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) board member on the council, but it would be a stellar movement to link with these groups. Snack options will be discussed with head of the YMCA after school program.  Edline, the district online communication source for staff, parents and students lists healthy snacks and fundraising items. Nutrition Nuggets, a quick read nutrition information box, is generally printed in the parent newsletter. And this last year, middle school diabetic students met with a nutritionist from Hannaford Supermarkets.

4. Food will not be used as a reward or punishment unless specified in a student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or behavior plan. The council feels that improvement is needed under this section. An example, at Woodman Park elementary, it was noticed that teachers were giving out bright colored freeze pops on hot days as a hydrating treat. According to Claudia Lynch, school nurse, some students are hypersensitive to food color additives used in processed foods. Another example, at the middle school, students in two separate classrooms were given lollipops. The council agreed that teachers need to be educated and held responsible for not following the Wellness Policy. A possible solution: provide a written document explaining the policy at the beginning of each school year.

5. Food and beverages offered in school stores and vending machines, accessible to students, will be consistent with the state vending guidelines. Mark said vending machines under his management meet state guidelines. The student store, however, is an ongoing issue—big cans of iced tea were sold even after the instructor in charge was schooled on the Wellness Policy. This is to be addressed along with the culinary arts program. High school students with huge cookies were seen wandering the halls, and it’s likely they bought the cookies through the culinary arts program. Good news—chips will not be sold in the elementary schools beginning 2008/2009. Dorothea reiterated once elementary students eat healthier, they will continue with good eating habits into middle and high school. This will help with the movement towards a stronger, healthier food program. A consistent message about healthful eating is the obtainable long term goal.

6. Organizations and classes should look for alternate ways to fundraise other than the sale of food. All is well in this area, creative fundraisers like jewelry, coffee and flower bulb sales keep school programs funded.

7. Monitoring the Wellness Policy will be reported to the School Board on an annual basis. Dorothea reports to the School Board at least once a month on issues and changes.

A few bits to chew:
– The group agreed that it is on track: issues were acknowledged, some changes were made and council members have heightened awareness.
– Dover has complied with state policies, which are lenient at best. The district strives not only to meet, but to go well above the state nutritional guidelines.
– New and old recipe student taste testing will happen again in the 2008/2009 school year.
– University of New Hampshire (UNH) nutritional science interns are a viable source of aid. A meeting is set for late summer to discuss direction.
– The UNH Office of Sustainability is also a go-to source.  In fact, they just recommended the following source of farm to school information and recipes: Fresh From the Farm: The Massachusetts Farm to School Cookbook. Check it out. http://www.mass.gov/agr/markets/Farm_to_school/farm_to_school_cookbook.pdf
– The committee will look into grants to fund specific needs as they are assessed.
– Better education and communication amongst staff, parents and students is necessary for successful policy implementation. A couple of ideas that came up: print and provide healthy snack shopping lists for parents, Open House or PTA/PTO education sessions.
– All Dining Facility Council meeting dates for 2008/2009 were scheduled—excellent news for all involved. This bodes well for continuing the momentum.

The next Dover Dining Facility Council write-up will come before you know it, after school is in session, late September. For now, relax… take the kids to your local farm and dig into the Seacoast’s scrumptious bounty.

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