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Bedford board bows to federal cupcake mandate

BEDFORD - Members of the Bedford School Board voted to approve a new policy regarding food distribution during their twice-monthly meeting on Sept. 10, bringing the school district in compliance with a federal law.

The federal mandate prohibits students from passing out foods deemed unhealthy during school hours.

The policy is aimed at classroom events at which children bring in food for a special occasion, such as a birthday party or similar celebration, school board member Terry Wolf said.

Food distributed at an event must meet that certain criteria, or cannot be given out to other students.

'The state is required to expand that [federal law] into regulations,' Assistant Superintendent Chip McGee said. 'It's a policy required by federal law if we want to be following the federal guidelines on food service.'

Although the policy was approved and is now in effect, it did not pass without criticism.

Because it started as a federal mandate, some backlash has come from those who believe the district's policy on the subject should be privately determined, McGee said.

'It doesn't control what kids bring for themselves, what parents pack for their kids or what can be distributed before or after school,' McGee said.

Wolf was the only board member to vote against the policy.

Although the nutritional benefits of prohibiting distribution of unhealthy foods will be 'a positive' change for students, she said the assessment should be left for the School Board to make.

'I was concerned, and I am,' Wolf said. 'I think it should be something that local school districts should make decisions for themselves on.'

The law does not change what students can bring for themselves, only what they give out to others.

Students will still be allowed to bring whatever they decide to pack, and the policy also does not regulate food that is handed out before or after school hours.

Since the law stemmed from a federal mandate in which food needs to meet a certain criteria to be distributed in schools, the district could have lost possible funding if the board voted not to pass it.

That federal funding provides several services to the district, including aid to students who cannot afford meals at school. Although it isn't certain, if the board members voted against the policy, McGee said Bedford 'could theoretically lose that funding.'

The district has made progress over the past five years with their health regulations, McGee said. Bedford has tried to expand the physical activity of its students, and made several updates to its policies on nutrition like this newest update.

Although the law is intended to benefit the health of the students, McGee said the subject of food regulation in schools always tends to receive criticism.

'Whenever you're talking about food that you're giving to your kids, what you value or don't value, it's connected to emotions,' McGee said. 'It can feel invasive, but it doesn't have anything to do with what kids can bring for themselves.'

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