Approved Snack/Treat Policy
The Board of Education approved a policy update to provide for healthier and safer foods shared for student consumption. The primary focus is to safeguard students from potentially life-threatening allergens and to promote student wellness through healthier and safer foods. As we approach the 2017-2018 school year, we will be sharing details with families and Community Clubs through our Student Handbook, informational brochures and on our website.
Among the changes you will see:
- All food items shared in the elementary school classroom or at an elementary school-sponsored activity must be included on the District-approved list of treat options provided by Westside Community Schools and be commercially prepared and packaged. (List is attached.) Bake sales, home-prepared items at concession stands, and pot-luck fundraisers will no longer be allowed. Food items shared at the middle and high school level must be commercially prepared and packaged.
- Staff members will also receive a second list of District approved safer treats to be distributed by staff only for positive reinforcement. (List is attached.) We encourage the use of non-food times, but if you provide candy in your classroom, please refer to this list. This list will also be shared with families as we prepare for class parties for Halloween and Valentine’s Day.
- Fundraising through food sales may not occur prior to or during the school day up through 30 minutes after the end of lunch service. Fundraisers after that time and up through 30 minutes after the end of the school day must [meet USA Smart Snacks In School guidelines/appear on the District-approved list.] Such fundraisers must be approved in advance by the building principal. This restriction does not include fundraisers in which food is ordered for later delivery and consumption at home, such as frozen food items.
- Parents may continue sending homemade foods of their choice to be consumed by their children only.
- Employees may continue bringing in homemade food for District events only when the food is consumed only by non-student adults.
- Outside groups that use/rent school facilities may follow their own rules; however, to protect equipment, prevent injury, and reduce the risk of contamination, school kitchens must not be used for any purpose, unless under the direct supervision of a Nutrition Services staff member.
We anticipate many questions from our families and community members. Please refer to the following talking points to help provide answers.
Q: Why can’t I bring in homemade cupcakes for my child’s birthday party when we’ve done that for years?
A: Ultimately, student safety is our top priority. Like all school districts, Westside serves many students who, if exposed to certain allergens, could potentially face life-threatening health risks. With no way to determine what is included in a homemade product, we simply cannot put students’ health in danger.
Q: Giving a child candy bars or lollipops isn’t going to hurt them; why can’t we keep doing that?
A: Westside has long focused on health and wellness for our students and employees. These new policies aim to better educate students (and families) about making healthier snack choices, which will not only be better for them in the short run but potentially impact their food decisions in the long run.
Q: The Bake Sale fundraiser was a huge money-maker for our school and students; why are we taking that away?
A: While we support efforts to create more opportunities for our teachers and students, we cannot risk exposing children to potentially harmful allergens for financial gain. Schools will be allowed to continue these fundraisers, but they will need to adapt the practices by using commercially prepared and packaged food items with labels listing ingredients.
Q: A parent walks into our school unannounced with 2-dozen snacks for his/her child’s class. What do I tell them?
A: We are so sorry, but we have a new policy in place to keep our kids as healthy as possible and to protect all students who may have food allergies. We shared this via email, in the Student Handbook, and on our website. You are welcome to bring something else tomorrow, or (if on hand as a back-up at the school) we can offer you another food item/non-food item. (If they continue to persist, connect them with Brandi Petersen, Director of Communications.)
Q: You are calling these District-approved snacks healthy but I see cookies, cheese popcorn, and other junk food treats. How are any of these options healthy?
A: We worked for several months with a committee of parents, District leaders, and a nutritionist to determine best options to still allow food in our schools while making health a priority. These options provide a healthy medium between allowing students to still have ‘treats’, but with smaller portions, lower calories and reduced fat content, all while keeping children with allergens safer.
Q: Why is Westside doing this now?
A: We are constantly reevaluating our policies and procedures to stay current with best practices for the safety and well being of all of our students and staff. This is a policy we revamped after meeting with parents, nutritional experts, District leaders and our Board of Education.
Q: My child has food allergies; how have you selected these specific options?
A: Please note these selections do not cover all of the Top 8 food allergens and we encourage all parents to double check labels and to communicate with teachers and principals about their child’s health. The items on our District approved list do not include peanuts or tree nuts and were not produced in facilities that use peanuts or tree nuts. We also included many gluten-free options for children with a gluten sensitivity or allergy. We encourage you to contact your teacher, principal, or the District office if you learn of a manufacturer or product change that may affect something on our list and students with allergies.
Q: Why can’t we bring in the generic brand, especially because it’s cheaper?
A: All manufacturers follow different guidelines and procedures in their factories, so a generic brand may contain or have come in contact with ingredients that are harmful to our learners. We selected the items included on our list based on federal guidelines and allergen lists; they have been vetted by our experts and included based on our specifications regarding peanuts, tree nuts, etc.
Thank you for your understanding, cooperation, and support as we implement these changes to make our schools safer and healthier.