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June 03. 2013 6:55PM

Pizza for Belmont student rehearsal gets federal OK

BELMONT — The 20 pizzas ordered by Belmont High School Principal Don Clary from a local restaurant last week are allowed under federal school food guidelines because they were for an entire group of students for the upcoming commencement rehearsal last Saturday, school officials said Monday.

And the advance order didn't violate any of the nutrition guidelines in the USDA guidelines that school officials are enforcing, said Superintendent Maria Dreyer.

"There's nothing wrong nutritionally with pizza per se that would violate any guidelines," Dreyer said. "Nothing the principle ordered violated the guidelines."

The owner of Brookside Pizza on Route 106 said she was confused Saturday because she had heard of the May 23 decision by the Shaker Regional School Board to begin more strictly following USDA school food guidelines aimed at tackling the country's youth obesity problem.

There was talk in town among parents and customers after that meeting that pizza parties would be ended in the schools, Christine Rudolph said, and she expected orders from the schools to slow or stop. Other residents reached last week expressed the same confusion.

Attempts to reach Clary over the weekend were not successful.

School Board chair Heidi Hutchinson said Saturday she would ask Clary to contact the New Hampshire Union Leader, but no contact was made.

Dreyer reiterated Monday that government policies now strictly enforced forbid rewarding students with food and prohibit feeding unhealthy foods on any occasion. It's part of the federal government's action to fight childhood obesity, she said.

"Pizza in and of itself is not a problem, we just can't be rewarding one group of people with a pizza party," she said. "In this case, the cafeteria is going to be closed and we had to get the graduates some food for rehearsal."

The decision to more strictly enforce the school's policy guidelines came after a recent audit of the school system found that athletic teams were having pizza parties, parents were sending cupcakes to school on their children's birthdays, and other similar activities.

At the school board's May 23 meeting, board members learned that if these activities continued, the district would be in violation of USDA laws and could lose federal funding.

School district officials will continue to work to inform parents and residents of the district about the decision to make sure residents understand the intent of the food rules and explain when they need to be applied.

"We're just trying to feed the kids and do it appropriately," Dreyer said. "We'll continue to work on getting the word out."

dseufert@newstote.com


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