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Hermitage School District's wellness policy takes an aim at reducing childhood obesity

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HERMITAGE, Pennsylvania - It's been a little over a month since schools participating in the federal lunch program have had to comply with new lunch standards.

The changes have been met with some criticism across the country. However, that hasn't entirely been the case at schools in Hermitage.

The district's wellness policy has been helping play a role in keeping students healthy long before the federal guidelines were set forth.

"It was an adjustment for our families to not bring in those treats at various times throughout the year, but the families as well as our PTO have been very supportive and instrumental in making sure that wellness policy is followed throughout the year for our students," said Artman Elementary School Principal Amy Wanchisn.

The Hermitage School District revised its wellness policy several years ago in an effort to cut down on childhood obesity, while promoting student wellness and proper nutrition.

The district must provide physical education courses, opportunities for physical activity throughout the day and nutrition education.

While it wasn't a requirement to eliminate all baked goods and sugary snacks from holiday parties and classroom birthday celebrations, the district thought it was the best move to ensure the overall health of its students.

"The habits that they learn at a young age definitely develop and they become habits of the mind later on in life. So, we definitely want to make sure our students have the right information so that they can make better choices as they continue to grow," Wanchisn said.

The policy still allows holiday and birthday celebrations. Food can be purchased from the cafeteria service's approved snack list and if parents wish, they can send in non-edible treats, or even visit the classroom.

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