MINGO, W.Va. — It could be called the “candy wrapper heard around the world.”
FOX News and other conservative media outlets reported this week that Mingo County schools’ Director of Child Nutrition Kay Maynard had reported a local elementary school teacher to state education officials the previous week after the unidentified teacher had allegedly handed out wrapped candies to students as rewards.
The teacher allegedly violated a West Virginia Board of Education policy that bans educators from offering food as a reward and limits snacks to healthy fruits and vegetables.
Mingo teacher hands out candy, but response wasn’t sweet
According to the Williamson Daily News, Mingo parents rallied around the teacher, and West Virginia Department of Education officials honored Maynard’s request that potential fines be dropped. Instead, school staff and teachers were ordered to undergo training on child nutrition.
“The (Mingo) teacher made a mistake, and they caught it at the school, and we’re fine with that,” said WVDE spokesman Dan Blackwood. “We’ve looked at the issue, and we’ve resolved it, as far as we’re concerned.”
The incident drew attention to federal nutrition guidelines that aim to reduce childhood obesity by requiring schools to serve healthier lunches and snacks.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines, upheld by state policy, bans teachers and parents from bringing sugary treats like cupcakes and soft drinks into school settings.
Raleigh and Fayette parents shared opinions Tuesday about school policy that bans sodas, cupcakes and other party foods.
“I get the whole ‘better nutrition’ thing,” said Minden mom Annetta Coffman. “We have one of the highest-ranked states for obesity, and it is becoming an overwhelming issue with other conditions, as well as diabetes and high blood pressure … but honestly, one cupcake won’t hurt a child, if he or she isn’t eating a box of cupcakes when they’re home.”
Coffman, 39, said she’s concerned that local pediatricians don’t educate parents on the importance of child nutrition, so parents aren’t modeling healthy eating habits in the family home.
“Sadly, the only children whose parents are being educated on nutrition are those who receive (Women’s Infant’s and Children’s benefits), because, from my understanding, they see a nutritionist,” Coffman added.
Fayette County father Rick Blankenship seemed unimpressed with what school policy deems “healthy lunches.”
“Have you seen the school lunches?” he asked. “‘Healthy’ they are not. They are nothing but loads of carbohydrates, which is teaching our kids’ bodies to store fat!
“Moderation in everything is key, along with exercise, which schools no longer provide.”
Fayette County Schools Nutrition Director David Seay said Tuesday that changing community eating habits doesn’t occur overnight, but school systems are making progress in teaching students to choose healthier foods.
“When the kindergarten students that are in school now are graduating, we’re not going to be concerned about fresh fruits and vegetables,” he predicted. “It’s going to be the norm.
“When I took over this position, the issue was, ‘Kids won’t eat whole wheat bread,'” he reported. “Now, they don’t care. They eat what’s available.
“Ten years from now, with fruits and vegetables, they’re going to have better eating habits. It just takes time for these things to be implemented.”
Seay enacted a countywide policy that makes fresh fruit available in all schools for students at any time, in an effort to help kids choose healthy snacks instead of heading for fat-laden choices from snack machines.
He explained that the goal isn’t to teach that desserts are “bad.”
“There’s nothing wrong with a cupcake,” he said. “It’s just that we want to teach good nutrition.
“As child nutrition directors, we’re trying to teach good nutrition and give kids habits that will lead to lifelong good nutrition.”
Although the new food pyramid guidelines have been championed heavily by First Lady Michelle Obama, federal school nutrition experts had been developing a new school nutrition policy in order to attack acquired diseases like childhood diabetes and high blood pressure, Raleigh County Schools Nutrition Director Theresa Baker reported in November.