New policy recommends foods such as crackers and vegetable chips


Littlewood Elementary School paraprofessional Nikki Reed hands out Goldfish crackers to second-graders in teacher Martha Emerson's class after their lunch on Jan. 24, 2012. The students were rewarded with Goldfish and a sticker for being the best behaved during the lunch period.

Doug Finger/Staff photographer
Published: Monday, January 30, 2012 at 6:42 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 30, 2012 at 6:42 p.m.

Littlewood Elementary School students have always been encouraged to demonstrate proper table manners in the lunchroom.

School administrators picked out the best table each day and handed out the reward: some Skittles candy.

But with an emphasis on healthy treats, the school recently switched to Goldfish crackers.

It's part of a new Alachua County School District policy, which means students may be in for some not-so-sweet treats.

Alachua County Public Schools recommends teachers do away with sugary snacks as a reward, favoring graham crackers and vegetable chips over candies like M&Ms and Jolly Ranchers.

The new rule arose out of an October wellness committee meeting, said Diana Lagotic, the district's elementary curriculum director. The committee consists of parents, teachers, area doctors and district staff. The School Board voted on the policy earlier this week.

“We have some schools that have decided on their own to not have candy as rewards,” she said. “Some schools hadn't eliminated candy and I think some parents got confused when they moved from one place to another.”

The new districtwide policy aims to “encourage teachers to use non-food incentives as rewards. When food is used, candy should not be included in the food choice.”

That doesn't mean teachers can't give out candy, Lagotic said.

“We have been looking at healthy kind of snacks, but we haven't eliminated candy,” she said.

Wiles Elementary School Principal Barbara Buys said her school has had a no-candy policy for years.

Some may try to circumvent that rule, Buys said, but the long-standing policy remains no candy.

The district also suggests using stickers, good behavior coupons and raffle tickets.

Harvey Ward, a parent of a first-grader at Glen Springs, said in an online comment on gainesville.com that he knows teachers have the best intentions and work under many statutory constraints.

“I also know there's nothing wrong with candy ... occasionally,” he wrote, “but how ‘bout we leave it up to parents to decide when our kids get candy instead of sending first-graders home with a backpack full of it?''

Candy can sometimes make behavior worse, Lagotic said.

“Sometimes candy can stimulate them more,” she said. “Stickers are a real incentive for a lot of children and those you can buy pretty cheaply.”

For some students, just getting any reward is enough, Lagotic said.

The revised policy also encourages parents to refrain from bringing sugary classroom treats, instead recommending more healthy alternatives like hummus and apple slices.

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