This story originally published in the Peninsula Clarion.

In an effort to reduce childhood obesity, the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Education Board’s Wellness Committee introduced an updated nutrition and physical activity policy at Monday’s school board meeting.

The policy could prohibit teachers from using food as a reward, and keep staff from taking away recess as a punishment.

Attached to Monday’s agenda, policy AR 5040 states “all foods available in district schools during the school day shall be offered to students with consideration for promoting student health and reducing childhood obesity.”

“Just be aware of how much, I don’t want to say it, junk food is in our schools,” school board member Mike Illg said at Monday’s board meeting. “We need to curtail it. Child obesity and health issues related to poor nutrition is a serious concern in our school district.”

Part of the proposed policy includes guidelines for foods sold for fundraisers. Food sold in a fundraiser that meets nutrition requirements will not be limited in any way, however, food that does not meet requirements will require students to apply for an Alaska Smart Snack Waiver. High school students will have 25 days a year to use the fundraising waiver, and elementary and middle school students would have 10 days a year they could potentially sell food products that don’t meet nutrition guidelines.

“Each school will have the opportunity to apply for up to 10 waivers, if there is a significant fundraiser where that involves selling some baked goods in your school,” school board member Illg said at the board meeting. “This could be an eye-opener for some people.”

One portion of the policy prohibits food and beverages used as a reward for student performance or behavior.

“This policy makes some significant changes to our nutrition policy as well as our activity guidelines,” school board member Dan Castimore said at Monday’s school board meeting. “The more controversial changes are the prohibition of using food as a reward. No more lollipops if Jenny does well on her homework.”

School board member Jason Tauriainen said he understood concerns about using food as a reward, but felt it had a positive impact on schools.

“I have an issue with food as a rewarding thing,” Tauriainen said. “I understand some of the concerns with it, but I also think that it’s a fellowship and bonding time. Things like pizza parties for an achievement is something that I don’t think is a bad thing.”

The policy prohibits using physical activity as a form of punishment. This would prevent teachers from keeping children inside during recess or requiring students to run laps or do pushups as a form of punishment.

“If a student misbehaves, they cannot be kept in from recess as a punishment because we want to get kids exercising as much as possible,” Castimore said.

The school board will vote on this policy at their next meeting, Jan. 21.

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