Cape public schools list banned items

Monday, September 18, 2006

Life Savers are banned in Cape Girardeau's public schools. So too are Sweet Tarts, Jolly Ranchers, chewing gum and a whole list of other sugary treats that don't comply with the district's new focus on healthy nutrition for students.

The school board adopted a new wellness policy in May that prescribes good nutrition and adequate exercise for the district's students.

But when the policy was adopted, school officials had no specific list of snacks or treats that would be banned from the schools.

Parents and teachers wanted to know what was acceptable for students to bring to school for lunch or class parties.

As a result, district food service director Lisa Elfrink came up with a list of banned snacks and treats at the start of this school year. She said no one should view the list as complete. "It is a work in progress," she said.

But the list already includes more than 30 popular candies, sodas and fruit-punch drinks.

Snow cones and cotton candy also made the list. Elfrink said those were listed so elementary schools will avoid having such sugary treats at end-of-school Play Day festivities next spring.

Some of the banned candy such as Skittles still can be purchased from vending machines at the Cape Girardeau Career and Technology Center.

Elfrink said the center offers numerous adult courses in which adults pay a tuition to attend. That's the reason the snack ban hasn't been applied to the career center, she said.

Teachers often dispense treats or snacks as rewards in elementary school.

"We would eventually like to get to the point where we are not using food as a reward at all," Elfrink said.

But for now the district allows for class treats just as long as they have some nutritional value. That includes everything from popcorn to chocolate bars and sports drinks like Gatorade.

Elfrink has made a list of some 30 acceptable treats.

"For the most part, parents have just been really, really supportive," she said.

Deneke Murphy, a parent of two daughters at Alma Schrader Elementary School and president of the school's Parent-Teacher Association, likes having a list that shows what treats are banned.

That eliminates any confusion on the part of parents, she said.

"I think it gives us a better idea of what can be sent and makes us more conscious of what we are sending for snacks," she said.

But Murphy said she knows that some parents will object to being told what is an acceptable snack for their child to eat.

Murphy and Elfrink said the ban on certain treats will be most visible to parents and students this fall at classroom Halloween parties. "That is where you are going to see a lot of change take place," Elfrink said.

Murphy said many parents will be thrilled if their children don't receive a ton of Halloween candy and sugar highs at school.

Alma Schrader's PTA has invited Elfrink to explain the ban on certain treats at its meeting in October. Parents who have signed up to coordinate classroom parties have been invited to attend, Murphy said.

"We want them to be informed," she said.

335-6611, extension 123

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