After four months of debate, the Ketchikan School Board on Wednesday approved the Student Nutrition and Physical Activity Policy. Failure to adopt the policy would result in a loss of federal funding for the schools lunch program. However, it also restricts food items that can be sold for fundraising.
The new policy requires that all food sold at schools meet guidelines of the federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and State of Alaska requirements. The restrictions are lifted 30 minutes after the end of the school day. During Wednesday night’s meeting, Superintendent Robert Boyle said the district received more than $700,000 from the federal government under the program this year.
Madonna Brock, head of the school district’s Food Services, says she’s concerned what would happen to children on the free and reduced cost lunch program if the Federal funding is lost.
District Wellness Director Barbara McCarthy also spoke in support of the policy. She says many schools throughout the nation hold non-food fundraisers.
“We cannot only have non-food fundraisers, we could also have healthy food fundraisers. There are also options to do things like a fun run or walkathon. We could charge admission to concerts or talent shows. I read about a school district that did a soup night, and they sold bowls that the students had made and painted themselves.”
McCarthy also brought a box of items purchased locally that meet the Smart Snack regulations. She encouraged the board to adopt the policy, as is.
“It’s pretty clear that it’s possible that we can continue to run concessions and can continue to raise funds while continuing to send this message to our student and to the district, that we are very concerned about our students’ health.”
School Board member Stephen Bradford says he is upset that numerous attempts to get exemptions for fundraisers were rejected by the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development.
“A bureaucrat at DEED has taken it upon themselves, and exercised their own power and say, ‘I don’t care. We’re not allowing that. If you have that exemption in there, we won’t approve your policy.’ A policy written in Washington (DC) by people who have no connection to Southeast Alaska, being interpreted by state bureaucrats with very little connection to Ketchikan. And I don’t’ like it. ”
School Board member Colleen Scanlon says she doesn’t like it either, but it’s time to move on.
“I’m tired of debating this. Unfortunately it’s being shoved down our throats by the federal government. We don’t have a choice unless we want to give up that federal funding, and at this point I would like to get on with this and quit debating it every month.”
Scanlon says the policy can always be amended at a later date.
School Board member Trevor Shaw addressed Scanlon’s remarks.
“Just because you’re frustrated, I don’t think that warrants you raising your voice, looking at me, directing that at me because all I’m doing is trying to have a good debate about this. I’m not raising my voice. I am calm. But I really don’t appreciate the interruptions. The raising of the voice. We’re trying to go about this in a professional manner.”
School Board President Michelle O’Brien redirected the conversation.
The board had considered not adopting the policy and seeking additional funding from the Borough Assembly. Scanlon and Bradford argued against waiting, and Bradford commented there would likely be strings attached.
School Board member Misty Archibald says she too doesn’t like the policy but would vote in support of it.
“This policy oversteps everything I could possibly believe in, but what’s even stronger than that is we have a healthy population of hungry kids in our community who need to eat. I’m not willing to put that below anything.”
The board voted 5-1 in favor of adopting the policy with Archibald, Bradford, O’Brien, Scanlon, and board member Ralph Beardsworth voting in favor. Shaw voted against the motion. School board member David Timmerman was absent from Wednesday’s meeting.
The board also directed Superintendent Boyle to work with legislators to introduce legislation allowing schools to amend the Department of Education policy.