School Board Considers the Ban of Candy

By Ivana Kosir

A bag of candy used as a fundraiser for Dance Marathon. Photo by Maggie Wibright.

First it was regular pop; then it was curly fries; next on the chopping block? Candy and other sugary treats.

According to community relations director Jim Szczepaniak, District 219 is now considering regulating or banning the sales of candy and other sweets at West and Niles North.

Currently, students can only purchase diet soda and juices in the cafeteria; however, in the hallways and classrooms, they can buy cans of Coke and candy bars. The school board and district intend to clarify these inconsistencies sometime in the near future.

“The district recognizes that we are sending mixed messages in our schools.  Among the issues that the Board of Education and administration are looking at is whether to regulate or ban the sale of sugar-filled items and other unhealthy items.  The district does not want to encourage eating unhealthy foods,” Szczepaniak wrote in an email.

According to principal Kaine Osburn, student government representatives met with six board members today, and the issue of banning candy sales was brought up by Nick Flatley, senior class president.

“The board heard loud and clear the concerns about candy sales and fundraising abilities,” Osburn said. “Board President Silverman did voice some concern about curtailing student choices in an extreme way.  Board member Sheri Doniger assured the student representatives that their concerns would be incorporated into any decision and no drastic changes would occur overnight.”

If the selling of candy is terminated, some students said they will be upset.

“People will be mad. Candy is good,” said sophomore Alex Fraas.

Other students said students will generate other methods of eating their favorite foods in class.

Candy in the school vending machines. Photo by Maggie Wibright.

“Kids will bring their own candy probably,” said freshman Logan Fogg.

Although candy is sold mostly for fundraising purposes, the school board has other reasons to eliminate candy selling.

“Research shows that eating a healthy, balanced diet is critical to learning. We know that, if students are not properly nourished, they will not be ready to learn and their academic performance will suffer.  We also know that when students load up on junk food, they cannot maintain focus and are more likely to behave disruptively,” wrote Szczpaniak.

Some students said they feel otherwise.

“[The school board] shouldn’t [ban candy selling] because it’s mostly for good causes,” said Fraas.

“[Banning candy] is wrong. What else are [clubs and activities] going to sell?” said junior Gaelyn Bailey.

Student activities director Jessica Ogulnik said if the district bans candy sales many clubs and activities will be hurt.

“A big, huge part of their incomes will be cut,” she said. “Most clubs do candy or bake sales as fundraisers.”

Ogulnik also said students need to take their health into their own hands.

“I feel that sugar isn’t always the best, but I think it’s our job as a school to educate kids on how to make choices. Taking away options isn’t teaching,” she said.

In addition to candy, the district plans on improving the cafeteria food. On June 30, 2012, Niles West’s contract with Aramark, the catering company, will expire, and the school board has started creating a request for proposal (RFP) and plans to send them out to multiple companies.

The school board will take advantage of the opportunity to change some of the foods that the school provides to satisfy the consumers and their desired health goals.

“The district does not currently have a written philosophy about food in our schools, but we are seeking to develop some policies and guidelines that will reflect our growing concern about the critical role food plays in the health of our school community and students’ ability to learn,” Szczepaniak wrote.

In an NWN poll, 52 percent of the 333 people who took “Do you like the new ‘healthier’ food options in the cafe?” voted, “No, most of the food is overpriced and disgusting.” Even so, 38 percent voted, “Yes, I want to eat healthy.”

A slice pizza with whole-wheat crust. Photo by Maggie Wibright.

Regardless of health, some students said they still want the curly fries and regular pizza back:

“[The cafeteria food] is disgusting. They try to make it healthy by using wheat. It’s not healthy, and it’s not good,” said Fraas.

“It doesn’t taste all that good to be honest. The pizza is greasy and the dough doesn’t taste good,” said Bailey.

“[Bring] curly fries back. They’re good,” said Fogg.

Health and physical education teacher Heidi Splinter said the improvements are a start, but the students need more choices.

“I know [the district] is trying, but they can do a better job bringing in healthier food options,” she said.

According to Szczepaniak, the school board has a responsibility to provide healthy lunches to the students.

“Three out of 10 students in District 219 qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, and it is our responsibility to provide those students, as well as all our other students, with healthy, nutritious food offerings,” wrote Szczepaniak.

Some students, however, said the food is a bit overpriced.

“[The food] is kind of expensive,” said Bailey.