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New policy targets student wellness

RULES CHANGE -- School Board throws itself behind effort to improve nutrition, boost exercise

It's official - the Forest Grove School Board wants students to be healthier.

Board members voted unanimously June 12 to implement a 'wellness policy' that sets updated guidelines for nutrition and physical activity at Forest Grove schools.

The new rules, which bring the district into compliance with federal law, will affect 5,700 students in local schools.

A Health and Wellness Committee headed by Nutrition Services Director Fran Scott and Assistant Superintendent Dave Willard started studying the issues last fall.

By late last month, they'd come up with a number of ideas for raising the bar on health.

Recommendations focused on four areas: nutrition education, physical activity, nutrition standards and school-based wellness activities.

'Our goal with the policy was to strengthen not only our food services and options, but to focus on better nutritional education for all,' Willard pointed out.

The proposals range from cutting down on caffeinated beverages sold at the middle school and high school to reviewing and possibly enhancing the physical education curriculum at all Forest Grove schools.

Before and beyond that, committee members concluded, the road to better health begins at home.

'As with most issues, the family has the major responsibility for 'wellness,'' said Willard, who has been in his position for five years. 'Parents are the first teachers for every child.'

Willard added that he looks at wellness as 'a team effort' between parents, students and teachers.

For the district's part, officials aim to refine the kinds of food and beverages students can choose from during the school day - particularly the items they select from vending machines.

Policy considerations 'forced us to look at things like snacks,' Willard noted.

Starting with the 2006-07 school year, administrators will monitor vending machine usage at Neil Armstrong Middle School and Forest Grove High School in order to gauge future food service purchases.

Snack vending machines are not available at elementary schools, Willard said.