Tahoe-Truckee schools encouraging non-food items for class celebrations
Visit bit.ly/1NSxEiA to read more about the Food & Nutrition Services department at the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District.
TAHOE-TRUCKEE, Calif. — With the holiday season, celebrations can revolve around overabundance of food and treats — but that mentality isn’t encouraged in Truckee Tahoe Unified School District classrooms.
Implemented this school year, TTUSD has a new wellness policy that promotes healthy eating practices and physical activity, since student performance is linked to their health.
Regarding celebrations, an administration regulation states: “Schools shall limit classroom celebrations … that involve food during the school day to no more than one party per class per month. Each party should include no more than one food or beverage that does not meet nutrition standards for foods and beverages sold individually.”
The referenced nutrition standards outline requirements when it comes to allowable calories, calories from fat and saturated fat, trans fat, sugar and sodium for elementary, middle and high school.
“The whole idea was no more than one food or beverage that doesn’t meet guidelines, so if you’re going to have muffins, then you’d have fruit,” explained Corine Harvey, TTUSD executive director of student services. “You wouldn’t have cake and cookies and popcorn. It would be balanced.”
Healthy snacks suggested by TTUSD include fruit with yogurt dip, vegetables with ranch dip or hummus, trail/cereal mix, air-popped popcorn, pretzels, and baked chips with salsa or guacamole.
As for preferred beverages, the first choice is water, which can be flavored with oranges, lemon or mint, and the second is nonfat or low-fat milk.
‘FOCUS ON HEALTH AND WELLNESS’
Yet, given the prevalence of food allergies and sensitivity to items such as gluten, nuts and dairy, the district prefers non-food items be used for classroom celebrations to ensure student safety and inclusion.
“The district with this regulation … is not trying to say, ‘Oh, do bring in some sort of food, or bring in some sort of treat,’” said Kelli Twomey, coordinator of parent and community relations for TTUSD. “It’s really trying to get away from food altogether and focus on health and wellness, but it’s also trying to be realistic in implementation.”
Traditionally, parents across the country have sent treats such as cupcakes to their child’s class to celebrate his or her birthday.
In trying to move away from that, TTUSD suggests parents bring in stickers, pencils or erasers for each student; donate a book to the classroom or student library in your child’s name; or plan a special art or science activity with your child’s teacher.
Should food be brought in for a classroom celebration, and it doesn’t comply with the district’s wellness policy, that individual is notified of the new rules by school site personnel, Harvey said.
“We just educate — that’s our job,” she said. “A tray of cupcakes arrives, we just call the parent and let them know (of the policy). It’s not a big deal.”
As far as feedback from parents and students, Kat Soltanmorad, director of food services for TTUS, said it’s been positive.
“Principals and teachers are really translating this into (the) classroom,” she said. “I’m not hearing any negative feedback, but we are at the beginning stages of implementation, so we’re still gathering all that information.”
‘WE HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY’
The policy comes after the district has made advances regarding student nutrition the past few years through programs such as Harvest of the Month, which focuses on the importance of eating fruits and vegetables and being active every day, and updating its breakfast and lunch offerings.
“Students have a variety of choices to get them through the day,” Soltanmorad said. “Breakfast provides almost one-quarter of their nutritional needs as a growing child, and half of their vitamins and minerals when it comes to lunch. … We have a responsibility, so if (students) are constantly snacking, they are not going to eat breakfast and lunch.”
Skipping a meal or filling up on non-nutritious food can impact student learning by limiting students’ attention spans, class engagement and test achievement.
Therefore, the wellness policy states that class parties or celebrations should be held after lunch whenever possible.
Further, it states schools will not use food or beverages as rewards for academic performance or positive reinforcement nor will they or school meals be withheld as any form of disciplinary action.
“We know nutrition impacts learning,” Harvey said. “We want sound nutrition, good nutrition for our students, so they can be at their best. (We want to) create that educational environment.”