Q: What is the new Fitness and Nutrition policy?
A: The new fitness and nutrition policy adopted by the Bellingham School Board on Sept. 1 creates healthy vending in middle and high schools, aligns health and fitness instructional time and curriculum with state law, and encourages finding alternatives to food for rewarding students.
Q: The draft policy required safe and nutritious practices for food brought into schools outside the district's meal program. Why does the adopted policy encourage rather than require this?
A: Feedback on the draft policy from families, PTSA/PTA leaders and staff indicated support for encouraging rather than requiring these practices. We needed to address food allergies as well as children's health and fitness, all while taking into account the input that we received from students, their parents and our parent organization leaders about the impact of the policy on our schools and children. We want to strongly encourage the healthy practices described below, rather than require staff to become food police.
Q: Why did the district adopt a Fitness and Nutrition policy?
A: The Board approved the policy following a year-long process of input from students, families of students, community experts and staff. A Board-appointed Fitness and Nutritious Task Force led the process to develop recommendations that met new state law requirements defined in Senate bill 5436. The policy goes beyond the state requirements to also address the issues of vending and other food brought into our schools because we are concerned for the safety and health of our students.
Q: Can I still bring birthday celebration cupcakes for my child's class?
A: Yes, but the new policy encourages families and staff to find alternatives to food for these types of celebrations with students. Preparing food at home and serving it to groups of students puts students with life-threatening food allergies at risk, despite good intentions. Some PTA/PTSA organizations have started successful birthday book programs in place of food celebrations. If families and staff still wish to serve food to groups of students for celebrations, rewards or activities, they are encouraged to use pre-packaged, store bought food and meet the nutritional standards.
Q: Can classrooms still have pizza party reward celebrations?
A: Yes. Families, PTA/PTSA organizations and staff are encouraged to find alternatives to food as rewards. If a pizza party or lunch/breakfast celebration is planned for students during school meal time hours, the food/pizza needs to be ordered from Food Services. Under the new policy, these types of celebrations cannot compete with Food Services during school mealtimes.
Q: Why should we support alternatives to food for rewarding students?
A: We recognize that celebrating with food is part of our culture. However, childhood diabetes, obesity and food allergies are on the rise. Research shows that connecting student rewards with activities such as reading improves student learning, whereas rewarding with food can contribute to unhealthy behaviors associated with food.
Encouraging alternatives to food or healthy food served to students outside of meals during the school day is a way to support our children's health and fitness. Only about 39 percent of Bellingham School District eighth graders reported that they participate in moderate physical activity five or more days per week outside the school day, according to the state's Healthy Youth Survey given during the 2004-05 school year. Our practices during the school day can have a positive impact.
Q: Can we have a bake sale fundraising event before, during or after school?
A: Foods sold for fundraising need to meet the nutritional standards if they are sold during the school day or 30 minutes before or after school. Items may differ from the standards if the are intended to be consumed outside the school day, are sold outside the school and the 30-minute before/after school period, or are sold away from school grounds. Food items may not be sold as a fundraising activity at a time that is in competition with district Food Service mealtimes.
Q: What about food items sold at student stores?
A: Foods sold for at student stores need to meet the nutritional standards if they are sold during the school day or 30 minutes before or after school. Food items may not be sold at student stores at a time that is in competition with district Food Service mealtimes. Items may differ from the standards if they are intended to be consumed outside the school day, are sold outside the school and outside the 30-minute before/after school period, or are sold away from school grounds.
Q: Where can I find the district's nutritional standards?
A: The nutritional standards are posted on the Food Services Web site (link) or you can request a copy by calling Food Services at (360) 676-6504. The standards were developed based on current recommendations of the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, and Agriculture.
Q: Can we still have Books and Breakfast Events before school?
A: Yes. Those serving food during these types of events to events are encouraged to meet the above nutrition standards and serve pre-packaged, store bought food.
Q: If I want to prepare a cultural meal with a Spanish class or make food with Life Skills students, what do I need to do?
A: Those preparing foods in class or using school facilities need to have a valid food handler's permit and do so according to Whatcom County Health Department guidelines. Foods prepared in class require a clear connection to the curriculum. Information about the use of district facilities for food preparation can be found in Board policy/procedures 4331/4331P .
Q: Will the ASB still earn enough commission from vending machines without soda and candy?
A: Under the new policy, all district vending machines in middle and high schools will be stocked only with healthy items that meet district nutritional standards , which are based on current recommendations of the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, and Agriculture. These items do not include soda, candy or foods identified as having minimal nutritional value.
To help identify healthy vending options that appeal to adolescents, a team of high school students and staff attended a healthy vending fair in Puyallup in May. Schools may continue to charge a commission on vended items to support their Associated Student Body (ASB) fund. This will be monitored to determine the impact of healthy vending on commission revenue.
Q: What if I have additional questions?
A: The Food Services Web site is a resource for additional information and families/staff with questions are encouraged to contact Food Services at (360) 676-6504.
Thank you for doing your part to encourage healthy food practices and explore alternatives to rewarding students with food.