Monett schools update wellness policy

Friday, July 21, 2017

Dissenting vote questions time allotted for meals

The Monett school board has revised its wellness policy to make improvements after three years of use, and a sticking point in the changes came when discussing the amount of time a student should be given to eat lunch.

According to Superintendent Brad Hanson, the original policy was shaped by a committee from a suggested policy offered by the Missouri School Boards Association (MSBA). Over time, the need for tweaks became more obvious.

"We were doing most of what we are now required to do," Hanson said. "There were very few changes."

"We were ahead of the game with our 2014 edit of the wellness policy," said Alex Severs, wellness coordinator. "Many changes were things we already followed through with, but did not necessarily have in writing."

Several changes, Severs noted, had been mandated by federal and state changes. Three major changes included:

School districts must have standards for all foods and beverages provided, but not sold, to students during the school day. Foods provided, but not sold to students include foods used in celebrations or classroom parties and food used as a reward.

The regulations require the district to adopt standards, but it is up to the district to decide which standards to use.

MSBA recommends USDA Smart Snacks in School, which the district chose to recommend as well, especially for celebrations and parties.

The policy committee, led by Mike Evans, assistant superintendent, included four principals, food service staff, four school nurses, the wellness team headed by coordinator Severs, three teachers, four persons affiliated with Cox Monett Hospital, two community representatives and Gordon Brown, executive director of the Monett Area YMCA.

The goal, stated in the policy, outlines an approach "ensuring environments and opportunities for all students to practice healthy eating and physical activity behaviors throughout the school day while minimizing commercial distractions." Eight policy points described having healthy foods available, use of the Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards, using federal food nutrition guidelines where practicable, offering physical and nutrition education, promoting activity, reviewing the districts nutrition and physical activity policies and engaging the community to practice lifelong healthy habits.

The policy went on to describe the School Wellness Committee and its structure. The policy included details on implementation and monitoring the plan, assessing it every year, describing meals and how they are served.

On one of these points, board member Brian Hunter objected to language in the plan and took the unusual step of voting against it in the final vote.

"I have the opinion that in the wellness policy it states we allow a student a minimum of 10 minutes to eat lunch," Hunter said. "I disagree. I think there should be more time at the schools. It's pretty hard for me to eat lunch in 10 minutes. It's hard for them too.

"Most of buildings do allow more time. At Monett Elementary, getting kids in and out, they typically give students 20 to 25 minutes. I was concerned about the amount of time and that kids had enough time to eat."

Meal periods at each campus typically run 20 to 22 minutes. Superintendent Brad Hanson declined to comment on the matter for the record.

The policy also described the availability of snacks and what is offered in vending machines. It detailed opportunities for fruits and vegetables, encouragement to parents to pack healthy lunches and snacks. Physical activity opportunities and physical education offerings, including those before and after school, are detailed.

Drinking water, the policy stated, is available to students during meals. The policy recommends students be allowed to carry water with them at all times.

The plan discussed assessing and improving safety and ease in which students can walk and bike to school. This effort included designating safe or preferred routes to school, promoting National Walk and Bike to School Week, providing secure storage for bicycles and helmets during the day, using walking school buses and creating maps showing sidewalks, crosswalks, pathways and bike racks.

Hanson noted the new policy also aligned with other policies and practices to present a consistent message.

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