August 25th, 2004

Food-For-A's Weighs Heavily on Board

By Nirvi Shah
Palm Beach Post

In the midst of a healthier schofood movement and childhood obesity epidemic, Krispy Kreme is rewarding students with a doughnut for every A on their report cards - up to a half-dozen per grading period.

Critics believe the doughnut company’s giveaway is full of nutritional holes.

The campaign comes just after the largest American health philanthropy, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, joined with several local groups in investing $1.4 million to promote healthier lifestyles at 50 Palm Beach and Broward elementary schools over the next three years. The goal is to help curb the trend of childhood obesity, which has been declared an epidemic by the National Institutes of Health.

At the same time, the Palm Beach County School District is reshaping its menus to offer healthier choices. The district no longer offers french fries and has added a variety of meal-sized salads to its choices. Several schools have agreed not to raise money through candy bar and other food sales and are removing soda and junk foods from vending machines - or offering alternatives including water and milk.

“I am a victim of food as a reward, and I don’t think we should continue to do that. Then you end up fat,” school board member Debra Robinson said.

“Krispy Kreme doughnuts are very good, especially when the ‘hot’ lights are on, but I can’t say that there’s anything healthy about them. Can’t we find something else? I mean a doughnut? Chocolate-covered raisins have raisins in them.”

Each of the original glazed Krispy Kremes contains 200 calories, 12 grams of fat and 22 grams of carbohydrates. Other varieties have as many as 350 calories, 20 grams of fat and 43 grams of carbohydrates.

Asked whether there was any concern about the school-based campaign at a time when one in five American children is overweight, local campaign spokeswoman Jackie Zepeda didn’t have an answer.

“As far as I know, there’s been no concern on my end,” Zepeda said, then said additional questions would be answered by other Krispy Kreme spokesmen.  Neither called.

The company is also offering a promotion this baseball season for Marlins’ fans. Any time the team scores more than 12 hits in a game, fans at Pro Player Stadium are entitled to redeem their ticket stubs for a dozen free doughnuts within 24 hours.

School board member Monroe Benaim said it is difficult to turn away companies that are supporting schools, especially when the district’s shrinking budget has forced it to make choices such as making student athletes to pay for their own insurance. But in this case, he wishes Krispy Kreme would take a different approach.

“Where I’d like to see it is where Krispy Kreme gets its name highlighted because it’s actually paying for co-pays for sports,” Benaim said.

Krispy Kreme stores will give students in kindergarten through sixth grade a free doughnut for every A on their report card, limited to six each grading period. Another program provides teachers with posters of doughnuts in their classrooms that students decorate with “success sprinkles” when children meet goals. The posters can be traded in for a class set of the dessert company’s original glazed doughnuts.

Palm Beach County has three franchises: one each in West Palm Beach, Boynton Beach and Boca Raton.

Principals decide whether to allow the doughnut posters or any other business partnership, a school district spokeswoman said. Teachers don’t have to sign up for the program, so Krispy Kreme doesn’t track which schools, if any, are participating, Zepeda said.

Area principals were sent letters about the promotions, including information about visiting Krispy Kreme restaurants for field trips.

Cathy Probst of The Acreage has campaigned against using sweets as rewards and using sales of junk food to raise money. Several schools in her area have heeded the message of her group, Healthy Choices Healthy Kids, Probst said.  She suggested more recess time or time to play games as rewards for a student who has done a good job.

“I certainly would not want to see posters in classrooms with doughnuts on them as a reminder every day, day in and day out.” she said. “When you do well and you reward yourself with food, that is something that will continue to promote obesity.”

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