Schools set new nutrition standards

POULSBO — The North Kitsap School Board is hoping increased regulations and policy verbiage on wellness and nutrition will ultimately decrease waistlines for students in Poulsbo and the North End.

The new school district nutrition policy, passed June 23 by the board, will lay out nutritional guidelines for “competitive foods” — those sold during school hours that supplement cafeteria offerings, such as the ASB booths and vending machines — and prohibit sales of “Foods of Minimal Nutritional Value” (FMNV). Those include candies, carbonated sodas and other foods that exceed a 35 percent fat, 10 percent saturated fat and 35 percent sugar level.

The other portion of the new policy is mandating student wellness. Children in kindergarten through eighth grades must complete 100 minutes of physical fitness per week.

Both policies will take effect in September 2006.

Dan Blazer, North Kitsap School District Director of Food and Nutrition Services, said he feels the policy will “create lifestyles that set an example both in nutrition and wellness.”

“More than anything else, it’s going to be an education tool that will set an example of the types of foods we offer students for good eating and physical fitness habits,” he said.

Recognizing the growing epidemic of obesity, Washington state Senate Bill 5436 of the 2004 legislative session mandated that the state’s school directors association create a “model policy regarding access to nutritious foods, opportunities for developmentally appropriate exercise and accurate information related to these topics.”

The model policy was developed by the legislature-set deadline of Jan. 1, 2005 and each of the state’s school districts had to have their own policy, derived from the model, in place by Aug. 1 of this year. North Kitsap’s board mandated the task to Blazer when it was handed down by the legislature.

In terms of nutrition, Blazer said there will be no changes to the district’s own food services — only to other on-grounds sellers.

But for competitive vendors, there will be no carbonated beverages, or FMNV offered 30 minutes before, 30 minutes after and during the school day. At extracurricular games and other events, the policy will not apply.

Blazer said that while past policy had been sufficient, the language was a bit confusing.

“The procedure has been worded so it’s spelled out a lot better than in the past,” Blazer said. “There’s also going to be an evaluation process to make sure that we will meet these procedures.”

The financial impacts to those competitive sellers could prove large. In the Everett School District, which Blazer said has implemented a policy stricter than the one that will be used at North Kitsap High School, the losses have already been felt. With vending machines that can only serve water and natural juices, Blazer said they’re already tracking a $50,000 loss.

Nonetheless, the school board felt the potential financial loss is worth the wellness gain — and potential weight loss.

“I was pleased with the new policy,” said board member Dan Delaney, adding that other on-site vendors now have to comply with the same standards the NKSD cooking staff does. “If you’re gonna talk the talk, you’ve gotta walk the walk.”

“It will give kids less access to junk food that will hopefully have a positive effect on their eating habits,” said board member Bethany McDonald.

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