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Out with the junk food

The Oak Harbor High School student store wouldn’t have anything to sell but sweatshirts and bottled water if nutritional guidelines being adopted by the school board were to take effect immediately.

Heading to the dustbin of history are such favorites as candy bars, soda pop and cookies.

Fortunately, students and others who sell junk food at the high school will have some time to find healthier products to peddle.

“We’re very fortunate that they’re giving us three years to make a change,” said Eric Peterson, marketing teacher at the high school.

The student store will reduce the amount of junk food sold by 30 percent a year for the next three years.

Under the new policy, the store will have to follow nutritional guidelines similar to the ones mandated for the school lunch program.

The big difference is the lunch program can meet the nutrition standards on a weekly average, while every single item sold outside the lunch program will have to meet those standards.

Those standards are spelled out in a new nutrition, food services and physical fitness policy being considered by the school board. That policy spells out the percentage of calories that can come from fat, the amount of sugar that an item can contain, and the types of drinks that can be sold during school hours.

Bruce Worley, maintenance and operations director for the school district, said phasing in the guidelines over a three-year period allows organizations time to find products to meet the new guidelines.

“We have reached a good middle-of-the-road standard,” Worley said. He added that other school districts are taking a more drastic approach. The Stanwood School District is removing all junk food from schools immediately.

Some students involved with the store feel the standards required of the store and lunch program should be equal.

“It’s unfair on our behalf,” said Olimar Hunt, a junior involved with the student store. Proceeds from store sales fund a variety of student activities.

Fellow junior Alex Niedzialkowski said many students only eat the unhealthier lunch foods such as burgers and fries and often don’t choose healthier fruits and vegetables.

She also questioned the effectiveness of such a policy restricting food selection.

“It’s ridiculous that taking junk food out of the high school will make a difference in the weight of students,” Niedzialkowski said.

Worley said the U.S. Department of Agriculture governs nutritional standards for the hot lunch program and the school district can’t waver from them.

The Oak Harbor School Board talked about the proposed policy Tuesday night.

Board President Kathy Jones pointed out that, if the new rules took effect immediately, the only things the student store would have left to sell are sweatshirts and bottled water.

Peterson said students are spending the summer trying to find healthier food through local stores and other vendors. The trick is to find products that meet the health standards that students will still buy.

The student-operated store at the high school raises approximately $10,000 annually. Peterson said it’s a self sufficient operation and funds a variety of DECA club activities, such as field trips and trips to local and national competitions.

The student store isn’t the only organization affected by the new policy. Parent groups often sell cookies at the high school. They too will have to follow nutritional guidelines. Worley said staff is working with them to find acceptable cookies.

The new nutrition, food services and physical fitness policy stems from state legislation requiring school district to address childhood obesity.

The policy also proposes fitness standards. Every student from kindergarten through grade 12 will have the opportunity to participate in a standards-based physical education program. Students in elementary school and middle school shall have 100 minutes of physical education per week. Students at the high school have to complete two credits of heath and fitness. Nutrition education will also be taught to students.

The school board approved the first reading of the Nutrition, Food Services and Physical Fitness policy during a Tuesday evening meeting.

Worley said he expects the policy to be approved later in the summer.

By next fall, the student store will likely feature more nutrition bars and fewer candy bars. How that will affect sales has yet to be determined.

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