I am a member or the MMSD’s Student Senate. I am currently involved in a group discussing a draft of a proposed food policy which I feel is rather Draconian. The draft has not yet been made public (I am told this is because it is a “draft” and thus not ready for release) and that the issues have been publicized. However, I am concerned about some measures of the policy and feel that they have not been highlighted for interested parents. I think some of you might have concerns as well. Here are some of the propositions that my committee has voted against altering as well as what parents were told at the January 17th meeting about the policy
“When beverage vending is available, the only beverages that be offered for sale [not me wording] or permitted in schools at all sites accessible to students will be water, milk, fruit juices composed of 100% fruit juice with no added sweeteners of caffeine, and electrolyte replacement (“sports”) beverages that do not contain caffeine or more than 42 grams of added sweetener per 20 oz serving.”
“No food will be sold to students in vending machines”
This is currently true of all elementary schools and most middle schools, but not the high schools. Vending sales at the four major high schools bring in roughly $15-20 thousand a year for the school (some of a principal’s only discretionary income). Personally, I feel eliminating all sales of soda and snacks seems extreme, especially considering the current financial pressure schools are under. The “cold turkey” elimination of all of these sales starting with the 06-07 school year seems like too much.
“Candy will not be given or sold to students nor offered for sale at school or to the community by the school during the school day. The sale of candy and snacks [this language will be revised to be more specific] is not permitted on school grounds during the school day.”
This would mean that clubs that rely on sales of such items would have to search for new methods. Bake sales would be eliminated. Students would be able to buy a giant cookie in the lunchroom, but not a small one in support of a club.
From the information packet from the parent meeting on the 17th, it seems the district made it’s intentions somewhat clear here. “Should we continue [vending/fundraising sale of soda/snacks] in light of what we know about the relationship of food intake to the increase in overweight and obese children?” The document does not mention the proposed elimination of such sales.
The district was less open about some other issues. For example, while healthier lunch was discussed, the following was not:
“All ‘a la carte’ items that are available during the school breakfast/lunch program that is served to students during the school day will have no more than 40% (35% by 9/1/2007 and 30% by 9/1/2008) of total calories derived from fat and no more than 10% of calories derived from saturated fat.”
On the surface, this sounds like a good idea. However, the realities would be, quite simply, stupid. Students would be able to purchase pizza as part of a meal, but not just as a slice. What this would mean, since many students who buy meals don’t eat the included fruit and milk, is that they would end up paying more for the same slice.
“No food preparation or cooking is permitted in the classrooms other than Family and Consumer Education classes or other classes with the express purpose of teaching cooking In these classes, no peanuts or nut products will be used.”
Thus, foreign language classes would no longer be allowed to prepare tradition dishes (a common practice in my experience) and elementary school classes would not be able to cook (I know some of these schools have special school-day programs involving cooking that would have to go).
On these issues, parents were only given questions asking what would be done to ensure the safety of children with food allergies without unduly infringing on the food choices or others’ and how the safety of none Food Services prepared foods could be insured. No mention of the proposed policies was made (which is especially egregious considering some of the provisions under the food allergies section that were modified just today).
I know some of your views may differ from mine, but I feel that what is most important is that you are not kept in the dark about what is going on in this district. There will be a second parent meeting held this Thurs. the 26th. I can’t seem to find the time or location on the district web site so if you are interested, good luck finding it. Sometime in late March or Early April, this issue will go before the full Board of Education (I will try and let you know when that meeting will take place) so you will have another opportunity to voice your opinion.