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School board goes over updated food regulation guidelines

By Kim Walter -- kwalter@nvdaily.com

At their Sept. 13 meeting, the Warren County school board reviewed the most recent guidelines to accompany regulation JHCF-R, "Use of Food for Student Rewards and Use of Food as a Learning Tool. The original regulation took effect Dec. 1 of last year as a product of Policy JHCF, "Student Wellness."

When the regulation was first put to practice, it came to school officials' attention that "both parents and staff needed clarification of the intent of the regulation," according to a letter sent home to parents on Sept. 17.

The letter, sent by Superintendent Pamela McInnis, gives an introduction to the guidelines that were also sent to parents.

McInnis said that no action was taken following the board's review of the document because "the guidelines accompany the regulation and are administratively approved."

The guidelines are a product of months of discussion among school board members, as well as the board's recent work session during which principals from all five elementary schools gave input on how the regulation was working.

For the most part, the principals said they were originally concerned with the guidelines and worried if they could follow them, but found that it was possible. Additionally, they said once parents understood what was being regulated, the issue wasn't as controversial.

The opening paragraph of the guidelines states its purpose as "to clarify the regulation as it pertains to the use of food during the school day." This alludes to one of the guidelines, which states that any food provided during after-school activities is not subject to the regulation.

Students with disabilities may still have food as a learning tool "when this is specified in a child's IEP," according to the guidelines. Also exempt from the guidelines are classes or courses where food preparation is part of the established curriculum. In a similar light, "food items may be used and consumed in lessons where the use of food is integral to teaching the lesson," the guidelines read. When this is the case, parents will receive notification before the lesson takes place.

Teachers will still be able to use food "to illustrate learning principals," but the guidelines go on to say that students will not be allowed to eat any of those food items during the school day or on a school bus. Teachers also will not be permitted to use certain foods if a student with a known food allergy to that item is present.

"Recognizing the prevalence of food allergies, a good faith effort to discover and notify all appropriate school personnel of a student's individual food allergy(s) will be made," the guidelines state.

During a prior work session, school administrators said that food was often supplied to students as "fuel" on days when SOL testing or more than usual physical activity was taking place. This will still be permitted, but the food items must be "healthy" and parents will be notified ahead of time.

Morning and afternoon snacks can be scheduled by administration at the elementary level, either by group of students or by having students bring their own snacks.

"If the group snacks method is used, principals will provide to parents a list of preferred food items," the guidelines states.

As for celebrations, students' birthdays "will not be celebrated with birthday cake, cupcakes, cookies, etc., sent to school by parents and/or others," but students can be recognized in other ways by school staff.

Schools will now be allowed to hold three celebrations per year, recognizing things like holidays, school traditions and end of year celebrations. During these events, the school and parents may provide food items.

Parents are to contact their child's school for additional information or if they have questions regarding the guidelines, according to McInnis's letter.

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