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Saturday, May 26, 2018
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Hillsborough school board wants to improve students’ health

TAMPA - For the last couple of years, the Hillsborough County school district has listed student achievement, human resources, financial management and safety as its main strategic objectives. Now, board members want to add the health and well-being of students to the list. At a daylong strategic planning session today, they talked about school discipline, sex education and a variety of other topics. When it came to student health, they said they worry about students being less active than they used to be – whether that’s at school or at home. They wonder about the food they are serving them in the cafeteria. And they’re fearful about the health repercussions down the road for those students.
“We’ve traded in the spatula for the box cutter,” said Stacy White, a board member who wondered aloud about the high fat and sodium content of cafeteria food. He wants the district to teach students more effectively about healthful eating options and he wants to see better food choices in the schools. “If parents send a Coke and cookies in their own child’s lunchbox, then that’s their prerogative,” White said. More schools across the district are offering more healthful foods, including salad bars. But White wants to see even more vegetables and quality foods for sale in school cafeterias. And he wants students educated about the consequences of obesity, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Board member Candy Olson wants students to be more active when they are in school. She said they need to be pushing themselves in physical education classes. “Learning about the use of soccer rules is not the best use of time,” Olson said. “I don’t know that it’s conducive to building a healthy lifestyle.” Lewis Brinson, deputy superintendent for administration, said the district needs to reach out to students’ families on the battle of the bulge. “Our families need help. They’re losing the war,” Brinson said. More and more, kids these days are sitting around and texting, playing video games and watching television, some board members said. They’re not outside playing or riding their bicycles to a friend’s house a few blocks away. That’s why, Olson said, it’s even more important for students to be active at school when they can be. “You can kick the soccer ball around or walk around a track,” she said, “but at least you’re not sitting at a desk.”

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