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A few years ago my stepson’s elementary school class had a contest to build a race car in an hour and see which team would win.

The prize? Each member of the winning team got their own 20-ounce soda. Another time during a visit to a local school, a teacher rewarded children who submitted the best papers with pieces of candy.

Using candy, cookies or even doughnuts to motivate and encourage children is something that is far too commonplace in many school districts.

If you are a parent or guardian, this should bother you, especially if this is not something you would do in your own home. There is no reason a school or a teacher should be allowed or encouraged to give out sodas or candy to kids as a reward for good performance or behavior, or to motivate children to learn.

Does your child’s school allow this?

What is going on in your child’s classroom? What can you do to make positive changes to take the focus off of food and high calorie or highly sugared treats?

It’s important to know if your school has any policies in place for food distribution in classrooms. This information may be available online through your school district’s website or may be published as a nutrition policy. If you cannot find that information, call and ask.

If there is no policy or if the policy doesn’t address this issue, attend at least one parent-teacher meeting and voice your concerns: Candy and soda should not be rewards for kids!

It’s also good to talk to other parents in your child’s class and see if they share your concerns.

When a teacher asks for donations for classroom snacks, tactfully suggest that candy not be on the list.

Instead, suggest and donate such snacks as mini boxes of raisins, cheese sticks, whole-grain crackers, nuts (if allowed), sugar-free gum, popcorn or mini apples.

Non-food treats such as pencils, erasers, colorful stickers, or coupons for movies, theaters or bowling are also welcome.

The bottom line

Making positive changes in your child’s school may take effort on your part, but if you are trying to teach your child lessons about good eating habits, health and nutrition, it’s important that these are also reinforced at school.

Talk to Leah

Leah McGrath is the corporate dietitian for Ingles Markets. Follow her @InglesDietitian. Contact her at Lmcgrath@ingles-markets.com, 800-334-4936 or at www.ingles-markets.com/ask_leah.

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