The Ultimate School District Wellness Policy: From Classroom Parties to Junk Food Ads
|October 3, 2013||Posted by Stacy under School policy, Wellness policy|
This year, my kids had barely been back at school for a week when I heard those dreaded words:
“Mom, I had a cookie THIS BIG for [so-and-so’s] birthday,” my second grader announced, spreading his hands wide.
He likes to torture me with detailed descriptions of the junk food that he gets at school (the same way that he tells me about who threw up and who got in trouble). I don’t want to react, so I put on my best poker face while I cringe inside. Here we go again…
Since our school doesn’t have a firm policy about classroom food, decisions about how to handle birthday celebrations and other parties are left up to individual teachers. And my son’s new 2nd-grade teacher allows every student to celebrate his or her birthday in class with the treat of his or her choice. Which, of course, means it’s open season for cupcakes, cookies, donuts and other sugary junk.
Our school doesn’t have a firm policy about food served in the classroom–yet it has one that prohibits kids from wearing baseball caps. Really?!? If school administrators think hats distract kids from learning, I have to ask: Aren’t super-sized cookies and cupcakes piled high with neon-colored frosting just as bad for their attention spans, if not worse?!? Not to mention the fact that they may be contributing to childhood obesity and numerous chronic diseases.
I’m a big believer in the power of a strong school district wellness policy when it comes to cleaning up the food environment at a school. According to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, every school participating in the National School Lunch Program must have one that includes nutrition guidelines for all foods available on school campuses. So when School Bites readers express frustration about the junk food at their school, I tell them to get their hands on a copy. (See Getting Junk Food Out of School: How Your School District Wellness Policy Can Help.)
A 2013 report from Bridging the Gap notes that “a growing body of evidence shows that school-based policies regarding foods, beverages, and physical activity are significantly related to calories consumed and expended by school-age children, and to their weight and body mass index levels.” And a recent study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior found that schools are more likely to limit sugary treat-filled parties when they have a district policy or state law that addresses specific nutritional aspects of foods and beverages served in the classroom.
Back in May, our school district announced plans to form a committee that will be responsible for getting our district wellness policy up to speed. I see this as a great opportunity to change our school food culture and have applied for a spot on committee. As I wait to hear more, I’ve been shopping around for a kick-butt school district wellness policy and—voila!—finally found a perfect (or pretty darn close) one.
Hello, School District Policy of My Dreams!
Created by the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity Research, this model policy covers everything from junk food marketing to food rewards to nutrition education and promotion. And what about classroom parties? Here’s what it states:
• Celebrations that involve food will be limited to one per month. Only foods that meet district’s nutrition standards will be allowed at school celebrations.
• Parents will be made aware in advance of when a celebration with food is taking place and what is to be served. (EDITOR’S NOTE: This is SO key!)
• Non-food celebrations will be promoted and a list of ideas will be available to parents and teachers.
The policy also says:
• Staff is strongly encouraged to model healthful eating habits, and discouraged from eating in front of children/sharing food with children during regular class time, outside of activities related to the nutrition education curriculum. Staff is not permitted to eat or drink out of branded packaging in front of children (e.g., coffee containers with specific company logos).
• Families will be requested to pack lunches and snacks that meet district nutrition standards and will be provided with written guidance on how to accomplish this.
Other important areas covered by this model policy: school fundraisers, physical education, recess and access to safe, fresh drinking water.
Of course, I’m hoping that my school district will be open to adopting this amazing policy that could be incredibly beneficial to the health of our kids. When the time seems right, I plan to provide school administrators with a copy. If all goes well, they will agree that it rocks and sign on the dotted line. Fingers crossed!!!
p.s. If your school already has a good school wellness policy but isn’t abiding by it, be sure to read this: What to Do If Your School Wellness Policy Isn’t Being Enforced: A Guide for Parents.
What do you think of the Yale Rudd Center’s model school district wellness policy? Is it totally awesome? Or is there something important that you feel they’ve have left out? Scroll down to leave a comment!