Blubber for Cash

Nothing troubles Tailpipe more than the sight of a tubby kid who can barely climb over a park bench or run around a track. The 'Pipe wants to say: Hey, little dude, lay off the doughnuts and get a physical life. American kids have been fattening up faster than you can say "childhood diabetes," prompting schools all over the country to banish their snack and soda machines and provide more nutritious lunches.

But Omni Middle School in Boca Raton takes the road less traveled. "Let 'em eat doughnuts," has become the unspoken mantra for the Parent Teacher Student Association at Omni, where glazed Krispy Kremes are sold cheap every Friday morning. It's part of a fundraiser led by Virginia Levey, who believes that by the time a kid reaches middle school, he should be making his own diet decisions. Levey, a middle-school mom and the PTSA's vice-president for fundraising, says she herself is overweight and therefore usually opts out of doughnuts, brownies, and other goodies. But if a fat kid wants a doughnut, well, so be it.

"How bad is a doughnut for a kid on a Friday?" she said. "I think it's absurd that a kid would be upset about that."

Well, there is a kid upset about it. A health-conscious sixth grader who wasn't willing to cross the Friday-gorge gang and let her name be used spilled the beans to the 'Pipe last week, reporting that her classmates were buying entire boxes of Krispy Kremes and gorging themselves in the bathroom before the day even starts.

"In my first period class, there are people who can't concentrate," she said. "It's hurting them academically, and it's hurting their health."

Although the young whistleblower and her mother understand that it's important for the school to do fundraisers, they don't see how the $4,000 from doughnut sales this year makes all of that sugar-intensity worthwhile. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gives you the long perspective on sugary food and sedentary habits. Almost one out of five American kids aged 6 to 11 are overweight, compared to only four percent in the early 1970s. Teenagers (12 to 19) aren't doing much better, with more than 17 percent of them on the way to Lardville, compared to about six percent 20 years ago.

Levey argues that the school needs every penny, since the Palm Beach County School District has not provided it with adequate funds. Also, there's plenty of good about doughnut day, she says. Sometimes she plays games with the students, making them answer questions correctly before they are rewarded with a doughnut. Sometimes they buy each other doughnuts — an ultimate act of kindness. And usually each child only buys one, she says. (A district spokesman said no one has complained about the fundraiser and the district has programs in place to encourage healthier eating. Principal Mark Stenner said reports of doughnut gorging were "absolutely unfounded.")

This car part woke up extra early last Friday to check out for himself Operation Doughnut Day.

At 8:55 a.m. a woman with a whistle stood guard in front of Omni.

"Excuse me, where are the doughnuts?" the 'Pipe inquired.

"You're hungry aren't you?" the woman answered, pointing through a brick tunnel, past the upper school office, where guests usually have to check in.

Outside the tunnel, the 'Pipe crossed paths with scores of sticky-fingered middle schoolers, some of them carrying doughnuts, bouncing around before their first period classes.

Behind a little stand in the courtyard, a volunteer stood at the helm, doling out 12-packs of gooey Krispy Kremes and collecting dollar bills from all sides. Almost nobody wanted the change. Just a second doughnut, please.

Sprinkle Not My Grave

For nearly five years, Elaine Bardar worked as an administrative assistant at Our Lady Queen of Heaven Cemetery, on State Road 7 in North Lauderdale. She filed sales reports, ordered grave markers, presided over petty cash, entered contracts in the computer, and kept the inventory for the cemetery lots.

But in one respect, Bardar stood out: In the office of this Roman Catholic cemetery, she was the only Jewish person.

And so, Bardar alleges in court papers, the cemetery became a battleground in this grand, millennia-old religious rivalry. Future skirmishes are scheduled for Broward County Circuit Court, after Bardar filed a discrimination suit in mid-November.

At issue in the case: whether the Catholics are culturally insensitive or whether the Jewish person is oversensitive.

Bardar alleges that when she said she supported Sen. John Kerry for president, a co-worker told her it was only because "all Jews support him." She was told to work on Easter Sunday "because she was Jewish" and that "she might as well work," she complains. And co-workers snickered at her for being unfamiliar with Catholic emblems.

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