Matoaka PTA tackles childhood obesity with books

Instead of a dozen cupcakes or goody bags to celebrate a birthday at school, Matoaka Elementary School's Parent Teach Association wants parents to donate a book in honor of their child.

"Basically we started it in an effort to reduce the amount of sugary sweets that were brought to a school," said Dana Hess, the PTA's healthy lifestyle coordinator. "We don't want to be like cupcake police; we just want to have an alternative to the sugary sweets and also be sensitive to the children that have allergies."

The Healthy Lifestyles Birthday Book Club has been in place since early 2015, and Hess said it's been successful, though not everyone participates. She said birthdays are about feeling special, and they don't want to take that feeling away.

"That's kind of our challenge, to make sure it's still special for them," Hess said. "To make sure they don't feel like they're missing out."

Students who go the birthday book route receive a card signed by the principal, a small gift bag, and they get a photograph pinned to the birthday book club bulletin board for all to see. The donated book is also inscribed with the student's name.

One bonus kids really like, according to Hess, is that their name is announced over the loudspeaker with the morning announcements on their birthday.

The WJCC policy manual states that school administrators and parent-teacher organizations are expected to promote healthy options in the classroom, including birthday celebrations. A list of suggested food items include pretzels, popcorn and low-fat cookies and pudding cups. The only cake on the list is non-iced angel food cake or pound cake.

For more information on the Matoaka book club, visit matoaka-pta.org/2016/09/join-the-matoaka-birthday-book-club/.

Williams can be reached by phone at 757-345-2341.

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