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Swapping sweets for nutrition

May 20, 2006|By Lauren Hilgers

BURBANK ? For many years in the Burbank Unified School District, the sales of candy bars, lollipops and other mouth-watering, tooth-rotting sweets could send students on their way to the prom, an after-school group or on an overnight trip with their choir.

But if the proposed Student Wellness Policy, introduced to the Burbank Unified School District Board of Education on Thursday is accepted by board members, those sweets may have to be replaced with more nutritious snacks.

"We don't want to say you can never ever sell candy to students," said Joel Shapiro, assistant superintendent for instructional services. "You might sell things to students after school."

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The restriction on the sale of sweets during school hours is only one part of the plan, which will regulate everything from the food served in vending machines to the types of treats allowed during class celebrations and parties. The board will approve the policy in sections throughout the summer, creating guidelines for teachers, food providers and parents.

"It only takes a few calories to add on a few pounds," said Ruth Frechman, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Assn. and member of the district's wellness committee, which researched and wrote the policy.

The policy will require that food served during lunch contain only a certain amount of fat and saturated fat. It will also require students receive nutritional education and will limit their access to sodas and sugary drinks.

The biggest changes will be behavioral, Frechman said.

"Our food services program has been well ahead," Shapiro said. "We are in compliance of any of the recommendations that you will see in this."

But some requirements will take a little collaborative effort on the parts of teachers, parents and students.

"We're encouraging teachers not to use food as a reward," Frechman said. "It happens quite a bit, especially at the high schools."

Teachers will also be forbidden to take away a student's recess time as punishment, or use physical activity as a punishment.

"I know most elementary schools bench students at some time during recess," said Laura Flosi, principal at Edison Elementary School. "Kids are many times asked to finish their homework at recess."

Exercise should not be associated with punishment, board member Dave Kemp said.

But board member Debbie Kutka said she felt demanding laps or push-ups for punishment had a positive impact on her own children.

"I'm uncomfortable with this," she said. "I think every coach under the sun uses laps or push-ups as a form of punishment and it hasn't slowed any of [my family] down."

The biggest change on campus, however, will be the change in fundraising tactics, said Stephen Ferguson, a student at Burbank High School.

"It's revenue," said Stephen, who supports the proposal.

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