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Elementary schools nix birthday snacks
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MASON CITY, Iowa (AP) — Mason City elementary school students can no longer celebrate their birthdays in school by plying their classmates with sweets — even healthy ones — because of a new district ban on the practice.

School officials say the new policy is an effort to promote healthy habits, avoid allergic reactions and leave more time for learning, the Mason City Globe Gazette reported. It’s also a step toward receiving a Blue Zone school validation, a privately funded program designed to reduce obesity.

“We decided we still want to recognize kids on their special day, just without food or beverage,” said Mike Penca, executive director for Learning Supports and Elementary Programs.

In lieu of snacks, birthday boys and girls will hear their names announced over the PA system, sit with a friend during lunch, be designated the teacher’s helper for the day or receive a small gift — such as a pencil or paper crown.

Families are still encouraged to bring items for a classroom to enjoy, such as games or books.

The new policy and Blue Zones guidelines allow for some wiggle room regarding snacks for seasonal and holiday parties.

During fall and winter celebrations, juice, skim milk and water will permanently replace pop, and healthy snacks like apple slices and carrots will be offered.

On Valentine’s Day, students will still be exchanging foil-wrapped sweets and boxes of candy.

“It’s tough to celebrate Valentine’s Day without a little chocolate,” Penca said.