Patchwork Liberty

The conflict over Howard County Public Schools Health and Wellness Policy

on May 8, 2013

So one might think that everyone would agree on what a county wide system should be for Health and Wellness for our public school kids.  Help the kids move more, eat better and have some fun.  And yet in Howard County it seems to have become a really big deal.  I’m a PTA delegate for my local PTA.  Of the 8 or so meetings for the PTA Council of Howard County (PTACHC) that I have attended, this is the most hotly debated issue I have heard so far.

It has been presented to the PTA Delegates by the Health and Wellness Committee and the PTACHC President, Christina Delmont-Small, as follows…

A committee for the new Health and Wellness Policy was formed to provide recommendations to the Superintendent, Dr. Renee Foose, to review and later present to the School Board along with her corrections.  There were some really good suggestions in their work.  Several of them were quite a bit expensive, but there weren’t any parameters given to the committee as to how to go about their recommendations.

When Dr. Foose presented the policy to the school board a good 60% or more of the suggestions were cut out.  What had some of the committee upset was that they were not told why these cuts had been made. On a sidebar note most of the PTA Delegates and the School Board Reps at our meeting appeared to agree that it would be a good idea to add in a column for the Superintendent to give an inkling as to why something was eliminated for future collaborations.  What replaced the suggestions has given the PTA Council of Howard County cause for concern.

The Superintendent’s proposal included a mandate that the schools, boosters and PTA’s would be forced to comply with a nutritional guideline that some dietitian would create.  It was also implied that anyone using the facility would also be required to follow them.  There was no inclusion for workshop meetings to allow the School Board, HCPSS or the PTA Council to review and make revisions to the guidelines before they were then mandated.  In our county these mandates are like law and implementation would have to be before the next school year.

Sidebar- I was a personal trainer for 13 years in Howard County and also in Richmond, VA and just like trainers I know that there are good dietitians and crappy ones.  Did you know that KRAFT has dietitians for their Mac & Cheese and Oreo’s? Yeah, there are some really healthy dietitians out there.  

So the main reason why PTACHC voted to oppose Dr. Foose’s H&W Policy was two fold.

1.  The guidelines are NOT defined.  How can you agree to something without knowing what that something is?  The dietitian hasn’t even been hired.

2.  This could be disastrous to the PTA’s and boosters.  We raise money for our schools and programs in various ways.  Some of them include selling junk food like cotton candy as a treat at a carnival or hot dogs at a concession stand.  We took serious exception to the overreach of this policy.

The elementary school I represent has all kinds of fundraisers; a carnival, bingo night, yankee candles, even orders for chocolate and yummy baked goods.  We also have a fun run.  Through these fundraisers we provide scholarships to after school programs, buy teacher supplies, host book authors, have a cultural arts fair and other events.

The boosters and PTA’s work together to help fill the gap when funding isn’t always there.  We try to find fun ways of doing it.  While many of our PTA’s VOLUNTARILY serve healthy foods in addition to the not so healthy they really don’t sell well.  Remember that I was a trainer for many years, as long as bad foods are done in moderation and you are working out, or for kids running around, then you should be fine.  This is taking the responsibility of keeping kids healthy away from parents.  Before and after school hours it is OUR job to mandate what our kids will eat, not the schools.  Frankly, I’m not sure when my kids will ever eat school food.  I pack their lunches every day.

I am all in favor of making the school lunches something that is edible and healthy, but this was a bit overdone.  This upcoming Thursday, May 9th there is a meeting at the Board of Ed and even though testimony from the public won’t be taken the PTACHC President will speak.  She is requesting a show of support and has created a Sign-up Genius with further details.  For those, like myself, who can’t make it to the meeting please send the Board of Education an email. boe@hcpss.org

I hope this helps clear things up I will answer whatever questions I am able to.

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6 responses to “The conflict over Howard County Public Schools Health and Wellness Policy

  1. Becca Rothnie says:

    So, am I correct in understanding that they are trying to ban all ‘junk food’ from all school and school related activities to include fundraisers where PARENTS and other ADULTS buy these items? I am finding that this whole county, even outside the school board, is trying to take over a parent or guardian’s job of raising children.
    Also, they want us to agree and be okay with them putting something into effect without parameters and details? I don’t think so.
    On another note, there is NO way the school lunches they currently provide are healthy or tasty. I pack a lunch for my 3 children this year and will be packing 4 school lunches next school year. I will be writing an e-mail voicing my concern. Hopefully, we as parents will be heard.

  2. David Riggin says:

    Re: what the school is allowed to serve, why do healthy alternatives have to be more expensive than junk food? I think the cost difference is not much. Logistically, healthy food is harder to supply because it’s not like you can just buy a truckload of chees-itz, goldfish, and cookies etc and use them throughout the year (that’s currently done in Clemmens Crossing). Snacks and lunches might have to be prepared on sight and cooked rather than heated up from a deep freeze. It would probably require more work on the part of administrators to provide snacks, and hopefully a new supplier for food service. Other schools that have gone “healthy” for their lunch providers, have done so at minimal cost increase (according to a 60 minutes style show, I don’t recall if it was actually 60 minutes or not) and seen marked improvement in temperament and test scores from the kids.

    Re: what PTA and boosters are allowed to sell at events and fund raising drives, I think those items should be excluded since they are completely voluntary and people don’t have to buy them at these events. One could argue that school lunch or snacks are voluntary also since you can choose to supply your own but in reality, we all know that if given the choice, the little ones would choose chips or Oreos over apple slices, mini-carrots etc the vast majority of the time and that there are parents who will utilize the school supplied meals and snacks for convenience or financial reasons (assisted/free lunch program). I’m hopeful that a compromise/exception can be written into the mandate to exclude sale of food/drink at PTA or booster sponsored events and fundraising drives, even if they are held at the school since the school is not directly providing these food/drinks.

    • David I also am hopeful that a compromise would be reached, however there are many different groups coming to the table and at the last meeting it appears that the voice of reason was outnumbered. That is why we are attempting to spread the word and give a show of support to reasonable expectations.

  3. sandraholt says:

    If the school board is not willing to revamp school lunches, I find this proposal very hypocritical. School lunches are the ultimate junk food! I like the idea of everyone as a community including the school system reducing junk food intake, but only if the school board is willing to look at what it serves to children by way a “healthy” school lunch.

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