Local School Wellness Policies: Classroom Rewards and Incentives


Local School Wellness Policies: Classroom Rewards and Incentives

November 1, 2006 -- For years, teachers used pizza parties and candy treats as rewards for reaching classroom academic goals or incentives for good behavior.  After all, what makes a better motivator then a sweet treat or a longstanding favorite?

With the implementation of local wellness policies, many school districts are changing the items teachers are allowed to provide for classroom rewards and incentives.  School districts vary widely in their inclusion of food-based classroom rewards into their local wellness policies.  Some districts offer very stringent rules regarding the types of incentives teachers can use, offering detailed lists of appropriate, healthy items.  Other districts apply a more hands-off approach and allow principals and teachers to determine what rewards and incentives are suitable for their students. 

This month’s wellness spotlight focuses on how several different school districts have incorporated classroom rewards and incentives into their local wellness policies.

Washoe County (Nevada) School District
Enrollment: 62,103
Policy Overview:  As one of the largest school districts in Nevada, Washoe County chose to implement an extremely comprehensive local wellness policy, focused largely on nutrition guidelines.  The policy closely follows the Nevada Statewide School Wellness Policy, which provides great detail regarding portion sizes and nutrition standards.  The policy also covers meal period length, when to serve lunch, and food allergies.

Rewards Rules:  Proscriptive
The policy states that the “nutrition standards guidelines apply to all foods and beverages provided by a la carte, school stores, vending machines, and fundraisers during school hours, incentives, and rewards.” (Emphasis added) The policy details the fat, sodium, sugar and caffeine content of all foods sold or distributed on campus during school hours, including foods used as rewards. Use of foods of minimal nutritional value are expressly prohibited by the policy for use as rewards.  These foods include any type of candy, which had been a popular student incentive. 

Chesterfield County (Virginia) School District
Enrollment: 55,393
Policy Overview:  Chesterfield County, just southwest of Richmond, chose to implement a very balanced policy for its schools.  This policy offers guidance on nutrition education, nutrition standards, and physical activity, along with other means to promote wellness in schools.  The district has detailed goals involving the overall health of students.  The county health department is expected to work closely with the school system to measure body mass index and develop health plans for students with health conditions.

Rewards Rules:  Encouraged
Chesterfield County encourages teachers to seek alternatives to food rewards.  The policy does not state specific rules for teachers and principals to follow, but acknowledges “schools will discourage the use of food or beverages as a reward for academic performance or good behavior.”  The policy also notes that schools will not use food as punishment.

Tucson (Arizona) Unified School District
Enrollment: 61,448
Policy Overview: Tucson Unified School District created a very detailed local wellness policy.  The policy defines wellness as “the dynamic state of achieving optimal well-being in all the dimensions of health:  physical, mental/emotion, and social.”  The policy covers all of those areas by providing detailed district nutrition standards, a comprehensive nutrition education curriculum, and an inclusive physical education program.  The policy not only addresses student wellness, but also staff health and wellness.

Rewards Rules:  In Development
Tucson Unified School District strongly discourages the use of food as incentives.  The local wellness policy states that if teachers feel “compelled to utilize food items… they are required to adhere to the District Nutrition Standards and Arizona Nutrition Standards.”  A list of healthy snack foods for teachers and school staff is being developed and will be distributed by the district food service program director.

Shelby County (Alabama) School District
Enrollment:  23,336
Policy Overview:  Shelby County’s local wellness policy is broad, but includes some interesting goals.  The policy encourages teachers to use the school cafeteria as a laboratory to teach good nutrition and etiquette.  Teachers are urged to each lunch with their students in the cafeteria in order to set an example for their students.  Additionally, the policy includes a section regarding sanitation standards for the child nutrition program.

Rewards Rules:  Not Applicable
There is no mention of classroom rewards and incentives in this policy.


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