PORTLAND – If you’re in a Portland school or at a varsity football game at Fitzpatrick Stadium and find yourself craving a Coke, you’d better go to the nearest convenience store.

When the new school year starts in three weeks, soda will no longer be sold in those places — even in schools’ teacher lounges.

Portland schools will implement a new policy that applies to food and beverages sold and served by any school or school organization. Food served on field trips, sold by sports teams and offered at events sponsored by parent-teacher organizations must comply with the policy.

And all food served at school celebrations, staff parties and district events will have to meet federal nutrition standards.

“The policies recognize that diet influences students’ ability to learn, and they aim to ensure that food offered at schools and school events supports student achievement,” the school district said in a statement on its website Thursday.

Chanda Turner, Portland’s school health coordinator, said the policy doesn’t prevent a student or teacher from bringing a soda to school. They just won’t be able to buy one from a machine.

She said school officials aren’t trying to control individuals’ behavior, only the food and beverages that are sold through the schools. “This has literally been a process that has taken five years to implement,” she said Thursday night.

The policy governing sales of healthy food and beverages, approved by the school board in April, will be implemented Sept. 6 with the start of classes in Portland, Turner said.

The new policies qualified the district to receive $90,000 from Portland Public Health under its federal obesity prevention grant.

The new rules don’t apply to nonschool groups such as the community athletic leagues that use school gyms and fields after hours. Also exempt are nonschool groups that provide concessions at school events off campus, such as high school basketball games at the Portland Expo. The school system cannot stop a vendor from selling soda at the Expo.

The announcement on the website was meant to remind parents, teachers and students that changes are coming.

Instead of buying a bag of potato chips at lunch, a student might buy baked potato chips. Ice cream products will be sold in smaller portions, and those delicious, white flour, cinnamon buns – reputed to be as large as a person’s head — will be replaced at Portland High by smaller, whole grain cinnamon buns, Turner said.

Turner said the staff will no longer be allowed to use food as a reward. A teacher who wants to acknowledge a student’s academic achievements will no longer be allowed to give that student a cookie, for example.

Jaimey Caron, a school board member, supports the policy changes. He said he has not received any negative feedback from staff members or students.

“What resonates with me is that we want to model healthy behaviors. We want our students to learn these behaviors and take them into adulthood with them,” Caron said.

 

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

dhoey@pressherald.com