AYER — Vending machines such as the one selling soda outside the high school gym are on their way out, according to Assistant Superintendent of Schools Brian McDermott.
In the meantime, “We’re trying to find the right balance,” he said.
Sketching the details of a new wellness policy for the School Committee last week, McDermott said vending machine fare has been reassessed in light of the childhood obesity problem in our country as well as the other health issues schools are expected to deal with.
Junk food standbys in snack machines are being replaced with healthier choices such as baked rather than fried potato chips, water and 100 percent fruit juices. Snack packages will be sized smaller as well, he said.
For now, machines selling soft drinks near the high school gym still stand, but soda won’t be sold during lunchtime. At some point, all soda machines must go, that is, if the school wants to get federal grant money.
Committee member Jacquelyn Butler, addressing an issue that had come up because of the new focus on healthful habits, asked how those issues were being integrated into the physical education curriculum. She asked if obesity was discussed and if kids were weighed in school. She was concerned, she said, about negative connotations if youngsters are being labeled and getting upset as a result.
Although children aren’t being labeled, Ackerman acknowledged that some students had apparently opened letters intended for their parents on the school bus recently that contained information about body weight and the body mass index used to determine obesity. The letters, which also included nutritional information, provided hints about how parents can help kids eat healthier and stay fit. They were not meant for the kids to see.
“We didn’t mean for that to happen,” he said.
Next year, the school will do things differently, but the obesity problem must be addressed and healthy habits taught in school should be reinforced.
“This is a huge crisis We can’t say one thing and do another,” he said.
Butler, however, did praise the grant-funded Kid Fit program as a step in the right direction.