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Paynesville Press - June 21, 2006

Wellness policy to take effect this fall at school

By Addi Larson

According to a recent survey, many PAHS students scan a specific section in the daily announcements bulletin: "What's for lunch?"

The new wellness policy for the Paynesville Area School District will effect the answers to this question starting this fall.

The policy was adopted during the school board meeting on Tuesday, June 13, and will take effect at the start of the school year in September.

The purpose of the policy is to assure a school environment that promotes and protects students' health, well-being, and ability to learn by supporting healthy eating and physical activity.

The policy recognizes that both nutrition education and physical education are essential components of the educational process and that good health fosters student attendance and education.

Studies have shown that a healthy diet can achieve benefits in schools such as increased attention spans, better learning retention, and higher self-esteems, according to Matt Dickhausen, Community Education director, who chaired a committee this school year that developed the new wellness policy.

According to the policy, this fall...

...drinking water will be allowed in all classrooms.

...pop and candy (defined as an item with sugar as the first or second ingredient) will not be allowed in classrooms.

...the food service will base food selections on minimal processing, low glycemic load, and on high fiber. At least two fruits or non-fried vegetables will be offered, and portion sizes will be "modest" at an age-appropriate level.

...rewards of food and candy will be used sparingly by staff and celebrations with food should be limited. or beverages should not be used as rewards for academic progress (nor as punishment), and students should be given ample time to eat.

...vending machines will have only 20 percent soda during the 2006-07 school year (the rest to be filled with bottled water and 100 percent fruit juices).

According to the policy, pop in vending machines will be phased out: 20 percent in 2006-07, down to 10 percent in 2007-08, and totally water and 100 percent juices in 2008-09.

Meanwhile, the food programs will have a minimum of 70 percent of all its product choices meet district nutrition standards in 2006-07; 80 percent in 2007-08; 90 percent in 2008-09; and 100 percent in 2009-10.

Dickhausen emphasized that the goal is not to vilify candy and soda pop; rather, to meet the true goal of higher standards in education for the benefit of students and society.

Many aspects of the policy - such as physical activity, health services, and communication with parents - simply define current procedures.

A federal mandate requires all school districts that participate in a food program under the National School Lunch Act to have a wellness policy in place by July 1, 2006, according to Dickhausen.

The district's policy is based on the model policy by the Minnesota School Board Association. A 12-member committee, chaired by Dickhausen, began meeting last November to tailer this policy for the Paynesville Area School District. "We took a look at different policies from all over the country," said Dickhausen.

The new policy was influenced heavily by one the committee studied from Manitowoc, Wis. During the policy development, the committee had "spirited discussions," said Dickhausen.

Dickhausen plans to keep the committee intact to listen for feedback on the policy this fall. "You don't always know all the ramifications a policy could effect," he said.

Dickhausen also plans to receive feedback from the PAMS and PAHS student advisory boards and from focus groups within the schools.

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