Davis High pulls plug on pop, candy machines after being fined

May 17 2012 - 3:05pm

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ERIN HOOLEY/Standard-Examiner 
Principal Dee Burton in Kaysville on Wednesday explains how Davis High School was fined for violating federal regulations that say schools cannot sell unhealthy snacks or carbonated beverages at the same time as school lunch periods.
David High School Principal Dee Burton, right, talks to Kevin Jensen, left, and Jay Bushman of Pepsi Co. about the possibility of moving vending machines into a janitorial storage room because the school was recently fined for violating federal regulations that say schools cannot sell unhealthy snacks or carbonated beverages at the same time as school lunch periods in Kaysville Wednesday. The common areas and hallways of the school are considered part of the cafeteria, but if the machines were located in a separate room students could still purchase items during lunch. 
(Erin Hooley/Standard-Examiner)
Principal Dee Burton said Davis High School was recently fined for violating federal regulations that say schools cannot sell unhealthy snacks or carbonated beverages at the same time as school lunch periods in Kaysville Wednesday. Burton said the machines were unplugged for now and he is working with vendors to replace some of the options. (Erin Hooley/Standard-Examiner)
ERIN HOOLEY/Standard-Examiner 
Principal Dee Burton in Kaysville on Wednesday explains how Davis High School was fined for violating federal regulations that say schools cannot sell unhealthy snacks or carbonated beverages at the same time as school lunch periods.
David High School Principal Dee Burton, right, talks to Kevin Jensen, left, and Jay Bushman of Pepsi Co. about the possibility of moving vending machines into a janitorial storage room because the school was recently fined for violating federal regulations that say schools cannot sell unhealthy snacks or carbonated beverages at the same time as school lunch periods in Kaysville Wednesday. The common areas and hallways of the school are considered part of the cafeteria, but if the machines were located in a separate room students could still purchase items during lunch. 
(Erin Hooley/Standard-Examiner)
Principal Dee Burton said Davis High School was recently fined for violating federal regulations that say schools cannot sell unhealthy snacks or carbonated beverages at the same time as school lunch periods in Kaysville Wednesday. Burton said the machines were unplugged for now and he is working with vendors to replace some of the options. (Erin Hooley/Standard-Examiner)

FARMINGTON -- The fizz on the first soda pop-selling "violation" Davis High School received this school year hadn't gone flat before the school received another.

As a result, the soda pop and candy vending machines at the Kaysville school have gone dark and will remain dark until school officials can devise a plan to ensure the school is in compliance with all federal nutritional guidelines where the federal government helps supplement the school lunch program.

Davis High was fined $873.50 by the state Office of Education's Child Nutrition Program for a May 9 incident stemming from students selling soda pop out of the school store during the school's 47-minute lunch period, Davis School District officials said.

One Utah congressman said no harm was done with the act, and this is what occurs when Washington D.C. gets involved in schools and attempts to make one size fit all.

The violation is a result of selling food with "minimal nutritional value" in competition with school lunch, district spokesman Chris Williams said.

This is the second time during the school year Davis High has been found to be noncompliant with federal nutritional guidelines, Williams said.

The school was fined $15,862 for being noncompliant during a review period from Dec. 1, 2011, through Feb. 2, 2012, Williams said.

"We can't afford to pay any more fines," Davis High School Principal Dee Burton said.

He said for that reason the vending machines throughout the school have all been shut off.

"The students have been great. Very honorable, very mature," Burton said. "The blame falls on me."

Burton said the school will pay the May 9 fine with what little surplus it has left in this year's programming budgets.

"It just hurts the kids," Burton said.

But the principal does not dispute that, based on federal guidelines, the school was noncompliant because the guidelines state no carbonated beverage of any kind can be sold during school lunch.

The soda pop that initiated the latest fine was sold from the student book store, he said.

If a student purchases a soda prior to the beginning of the school lunch period, the student can take the drink into the cafeteria to drink with lunch, Burton said. But any student who buys a school lunch cannot leave the cafeteria during lunch to buy a soda or any of a number of candies, he said.

"I still don't think the students have a full understanding of the federal guidelines. The only thing they know is that the pop and candy machines have been turned off," Burton said.

The intent of the school lunch guidelines outlined by the federal government is to get students to eat a nutritional lunch. But with teens being so mobile, the guidelines may only force some students to eat off campus, Burton said.

Compounding the situation in the long term, the school vending machines generate revenue to help fund nonrevenue-related school activities such as debate, new computers for the classroom, or royalties for the songs used in the school musical, Burton said.

"The money we'll lose by not being able to sell the items amounts to thousands and thousands of dollars," he said.

Williams said he can see both sides of the issue.

"The federal government is doing what they can to help raise a healthy generation of kids," Williams said.

More students are getting less exercise and less nutritional foods, and this is the federal government's way of countering that, he said.

But he recognizes the financial impact the violations will have on the school.

Williams said this is the first time he is aware that a school in the Davis district has been found noncompliant with the nutritional food guidelines.

Utah State Office of Education Child Nutrition Program Director Luann Elliott said she sympathizes with Davis High, but schools must meet federal guidelines in providing healthy meal choices for students, and when schools are noncompliant they must repay the program the federal dollars the school has received in advance for each school lunch meal served.

"All schools understand what the requirements are," although other schools in the state, despite pre-announced inspections, have been found to be in violation of the federal nutritional guidelines, Elliott said.

Box Elder High School received a similar violation notice during the current school year resulting in the Brigham City school having to pay $19,000 back to the program, said Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah.

There is nothing the schools can do other than to pay the fines, Bishop said. But he questions why the federal government is involved in the schools, which are a responsibility that should come under the control of state or local government.

Washington D.C. establishes these "rigid" standards having blinders on, Bishop said.

The federal standards, in some cases depending on school design and lunchroom capacity, can expand the lunchroom serving area to include the halls, making it a violation when a student leaving the cafeteria with their food tray uses a vending machine in those areas during the lunch period.

Bishop said the federal government standards in these particular instances don't "fit reality."

"That is what happens when you let Washington set the guidelines. One size doesn't fit all," said Bishop, a former Box Elder County teacher.

"No harm was done," Bishop said regarding the schools' violations. Yet, the schools were dinged by an overzealous auditor, he said.

"You can buy a whole lot of carrot sticks for that kind of money," Bishop said of the $35,000 the two schools will collectively have lost from the violations.

Elliott said the school inspections come with advance notice. Kids can buy a soda generally wherever they want to, but the nation has a child obesity problem, with 10 percent of its children being defined as obese, Elliott said.

"This is a big, big problem," she said.

To reduce those numbers, schools need to offer students a healthy-choice environment, she said.

"Put healthy choices in the machines -- schools can still make money."

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