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No Gatorade, whole milk at Chicago Public Schools?

Under new 'Healthy Snack Beverage' policy up for Chicago Board Educativote this week sales soft drinks fruit drinks vitamdrinks more

Under a new "Healthy Snack and Beverage" policy up for a Chicago Board of Education vote this week, sales of soft drinks, fruit drinks, vitamin drinks and more would be banned during school hours. | Sun-Times Library

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Updated: December 13, 2012 10:26AM

Gatorade, vitamin drinks and even whole milk would be barred from sale in Chicago Public Schools during school hours under a new “Healthy Snack and Beverage” policy up for a school board vote this week.

Selling chocolate bars for school fund-raisers and using candy or fattening cupcakes to reward kids would be “minimized’’ but not necessarily outlawed under the proposal. Instead, “non-food’’ rewards must be promoted.

A “wellness team’’ in each school would establish ways to hold “healthy” fund-raisers and offer “healthy celebrations and rewards” that comply with “applicable federal regulations” and meet the very specific caloric, fat and sodium guidelines outlined in the policy.

“It’s true our kids’ eating patterns overall need some work,’’ said Wendy Katten, co-founder of the parent group Raise Your Hands. “But if teachers hand out Halloween treats, are they in trouble?”

Under the plan, many food and drink items would definitely be off limits from sale to students during school hours. For example, the new policy would:

♦ Prohibit the sale of soft drinks, fruit drinks, vitamin-water drinks and energy drinks with minimal nutritional value. Juice drinks must be 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice.

♦ Ban carbonated water.

♦ Ax sports drinks, such as Gatorade, “except when provided for student athletes participating in sports programs involving vigorous activity for at least one hour duration.’’

♦ Limit milk to 8 ounces of low-fat or skim, or vitamin- and calcium-enriched soy or rice milk that is low-fat. That means no whole milk.

♦ Require cheese to be “low, reduced-fat and low sodium.’’

One CPS principal who asked for anonymity called the policy “over the top’’ in terms of government intrusion.

“I’m all for serving a healthy lunch but this is ridiculous that they are getting into all these details. If they think I am going to be monitoring cupcakes being brought in for a birthday celebration — I can’t,’’ the principal said.

“Why should we be minimizing celebrations with food? We are about to approach Thanksgiving. How do we celebrate? With food . . . What is going on here? . . . We were about the business of education. Now, we’re into everything.’’

CPS spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler noted that the new policy aligns with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Healthier U.S. Schools Challenge, which can land schools a special federal certificate. First lady Michelle Obama embraced the challenge as part of her campaign to raise a healthier generation of kids.

The CPS proposal bans some products from sale during school hours but allows them during after-school events, sporting events and field trips, Ziegler noted. It merely limits but does not prohibit some foods from use during celebrations or as rewards, Ziegler said.

“Chicago Public Schools is focusing on academics,” Ziegler said, “but that doesn’t mean we can’t also instill healthy eating habits in students when their health can be directly related to their ability to learn in the classroom.’’

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