CLARK, NJ – Students at the Frank K. Hehnly Elementary School say nutritional guidelines are putting the kibosh on ice cream at the school's fifth-grade end-of-year social, so a group approached the Board of Education on Monday night to request the ruling be reconsidered.
“We were told that we could not have the ice cream social because it is unhealthy,” Hehnly student Sophia Downing told the board. “If having the ice cream is unhealthy, why are we allowed to buy it at the cafeteria at lunch time?”
It’s tradition for the fifth-grade students at Hehnly to celebrate their move to middle school with an ice cream social hosted by the school’s PTA, fifth-grade parent Jennifer Passuth explained. Fifth graders receive their yearbooks at the social and have time to sign the books with their classmates.
Passuth said the children were told that the ice cream social would not happen this year due to changes in the nutritional polices of the Clark school district. Instead, the children would receive their yearbooks at a school-wide year-end gathering, sans ice cream.
After listening to their daughters and friends talk about missing out on the traditional ice cream social, Passuth, Janet Downing (Sophia’s mother) and other parents talked to the children about going to the next board of education meeting to state their case. And so the group followed their mothers’ advice and did just that.
Sophia Downing told the board that the fifth graders of Valley Road Elementary School are still having their traditional luncheon.
“I believe that their lunch last year was McDonalds,” Sophia Downing said. “Is that healthier than ice cream? I am glad that fifth graders at Valley are still getting their special day as they should. I just feel that it is only fair that the fifth graders at Hehnly School should also get their special day; the traditional ice cream social.”
Board of Education president Jill Curran thanked Downing for taking the time to come to the meeting and discuss her class’s concerns.
“That was very well said,” Curran said. “And you are very brave to get up and say those things because a lot of adults are afraid to get up to that podium. We as a board will talk about it and look into it…and then we can get back to you and let you know what we decide.”
Fifth grader Reese Passuth took a turn at the microphone to point out inconsistencies she sees in the nutritional policy’s implementation.
“Along with Sophia, I question the selections at lunch. There is ice cream, fruit rollups, pop tarts and many other unhealthy foods being offered,” Reese Passuth said. “If we are allowed to buy ice cream at lunch then why aren’t we allowed to have an ice cream social? The fifth grade ice cream social has been a tradition in the Hehnly School since I’ve been there. Myself and my classmates have been looking forward to it.”
Superintendent of Schools Edward Grande thanked all of the students who came, both those who spoke and those who came to support their classmates. He congratulated the children on their willingness to bring their concerns to the board.
“You are learning at an early age that an important part of our political process is having a voice and supporting what you believe in,” Grande said. “So please know that myself and the board will take what you said here tonight under consideration. Again, we are very impressed by the nice job you did this evening.”