I wanted to take a moment to respond in writing to some of the more frequent questions I have been receiving since the new Food on Campus procedures were announced to staff members as well as to parents in a recent newspaper article. I have received a number of calls from parents, the vast majority of whom are very much in support of the recent changes. One parent called to express her appreciation for the change and made the comment that her children had been enrolled in four different school districts over the past eight years and Camden County was the only system that allowed home baked items to be distributed in the classroom. Hopefully my responses below will help you develop a deeper understanding of the rationale behind the procedures that were developed and allow you to better impart that information to all stakeholders. These procedures were developed by a focus group consisting of educators, nurses and parents. The procedures they developed balance a desire to allow celebrations and rewards with a need to ensure students are protected.
Why make these changes?
The primary purpose is to ensure the health and safety of our students during the school day. Tragic events across the nation and even several close calls in our own schools compelled us to review the potential threat created by an open door policy as related to food. This threat could come from an individual who intends harm to children or from someone who was innocently unaware of the life-threatening consequences of food allergies to some children. The focus group that developed the procedures also felt very strongly that in making these changes to the open door policy as related to food we also needed to emphasize healthy food choices. In other words we need to practice what we preach when it comes to the message we send to students and parents. These new procedures come along at a time that the federal government is implementing significant changes in the school lunch program to provide for healthier options and the state is requiring the Fitness Gram testing.
What are the new procedures being implemented?
1. No homemade food items will be allowed to be brought on campus to be distributed to students.
2. Parents may bring food items purchased in a store provided they are packaged and an ingredients label is available.
3. Parents must make arrangements with their child’s teacher at least one school day prior to bringing in snacks or food items for a class.
4. Parents must check with their child’s teacher for a list of snacks appropriate for that particular classroom.
5. Parents and teachers will be provided a list of “Healthy School Celebration” options and some suggestions for celebrations that do not include food items.
Does this mean a parent cannot bring in any food items such as a cake, cookies, etc. to a classroom?
No it does not. Although we encourage parents to consider healthy options they may still send these items to a classroom provided they are not homemade and are packaged with the appropriate labeling and the teacher is given at least one day’s advance notice.
Is one of the goals of the new procedures to discourage birthday celebrations and rewards within a classroom?
Certainly not. Although once again a goal is to have parents and educators begin to consider healthy food choices and celebrations that are not always centered on food as a reward.
Can teachers bring in home baked good to share with their class?
No. Teachers must follow the same procedures as parents. It would certainly be hard to justify to parents why they cannot bring homemade food items yet teachers are allowed to do so.
Does this policy prohibit learning activities within a classroom that involve food preparation?
No. If it is a classroom activity and the ingredients are purchased in the store this is certainly permissible.
Does this policy prevent parents from sending homemade goods with their children for individual consumption?
No. It has no effect on what a parent provides for their child to eat as a snack or lunch. That is the parent’s right to send food items of their choice for their children.