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June 02. 2013 10:00PM

Confusion in Belmont: What’s on the menu at school?

BELMONT — Christine Rudolph said she did a double-take when her restaurant received an order for 20 pizzas from the principal of Belmont High School.

Rudolph, the owner of Brookside Pizza on Route 106, said she has been a longtime supporter of students, teachers and coaches in town, and a regular supplier of pizzas to the Shaker Regional School District.

She knows that on May 23, district administrators announced that Shaker Regional would begin strictly following USDA school food guidelines aimed at tackling the country’s youth obesity problem. There was talk that pizza parties would be ended, Rudolph said.

“I just want to know what’s going on,” she said of Thursday’s pizza order.

School Board Chair Heidi Hutchinson said administrators are still in the early stages of enforcing the guidelines. “He could have been providing pizza for everyone in a way which fits the guidelines,” Hutchinson said of Principal Dan Clary.

Clary could not be reached for comment over the weekend.

A recent audit of the school system found that athletic teams were having pizza parties and parents were sending cupcakes to school on their children’s birthdays. In doing so, teachers, coaches and administrators were violating government guidelines that forbid rewarding achievements with food, and breaking the federal healthy food nutritional rules for schools, school officials said.

At the meeting, board members learned that if these activities continued, the district would be in violation of U.S. Department of Agriculture laws and could lose federal funding.

“We decided we have to get tough with the USDA requirements,” Superintendent Maria Dreyer said the day after the meeting. “We already have these requirements in our wellness policy, so there’s not anything that we’re really doing new here (besides enforcement).”

The requirements state that there can’t be any sweets on the school district property because they contribute to the youth obesity problem, according to government officials.

The move has received mixed reviews from parents and school employees. Some parents objected, saying their children aren’t getting fat because of cupcakes at birthday parties; others said it was government interfering with their family lives.

But Dreyer said the changes make sense.

“This country has a lot of obese children,” she said.

“I know there have been pizza parties after athletic events and school parties for years, but by rewarding with food, you single out a group and that’s unfair,” Dreyer said. “And then you give them food that isn’t nutritious.”

“We should be serving healthy food to our students. How about sending in something healthy with children on their birthdays? How about sending in a fruit salad for a birthday party instead of sending cupcakes?”

dseufert@newstote.com


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