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Press Release
September 18, 2008

Candy in the Classroom Hinders Gold Medal Schools

Health department encourages parents and teachers to work together to find new options

(Ogden, UT) As the new school year gets underway, health department officials remind parents and teachers to look for alternatives to using sweet treats as a reward for good behavior in the classroom.

Cupcakes, chocolate kisses and other calorie-laden goodies in the classroom are a major road block to schools in the Gold Medal Schools program which helps promote health and reduce obesity in students, says Rochelle Gates, program director with the Weber-Morgan Health Department. To achieve “Gold Level” status, schools must enact a non-food incentives policy.

Using food as a reward can have a lifelong effect on a young person’s perception of food and may contribute to making bad lifestyle choices and becoming overweight.

“Children associate food with feeling happy,” Gates says. “Then it becomes about the emotions associated with eating rather than nutrition.”
Switching to non-food incentives is one of the most difficult steps for schools to take. Candy is the old standby because it is convenient, inexpensive and produces the results that teachers look for. But it also starts and unhealthy cycle.

 “Non-food rewards are actually a great idea,” Gates says. “Not only are they better for the students’ health but they help the kids become more confident and self motivated. Candy is gone in an instant, but praise or something more long lasting reminds them of their achievement.”

Gates points to a 2002 survey that showed 54% of Utah school children selected extra recess as their first choice for kudos in the classroom; 25% preferred coupons and 14% chose new pencils or erasers. Only 7% picked candy as their reward of choice.

Some example include: coupons to redeem for school supplies, extra recess time or the chance to earn a class movie or board game party.

 There are 25 schools in the Weber, Ogden and Morgan school districts participating at various levels in the Gold Medal Schools program. Nineteen of them have achieved Gold status. But there are a few schools each year that don’t progress because of the non-food incentives requirement.

 “We’d like to help them move forward in creating a healthier environment for young people,” Gates says.