Westside Implements Safer & Healthier Foods Plan
In an ongoing effort to keep all students safer and healthier, Westside Community Schools has recently updated its policies and practices regarding food provided to students. Students, parents and staff will be affected by these changes, which will take effect at the start of the 2017-2018 school year.
Among the changes you will see:
- All food items shared in the elementary school classrooms or at elementary-level school-sponsored activities must appear on the District-approved list of treat options and be commercially prepared and packaged. CLICK HERE for the District-approved snack list. At the middle school and high school levels, food items shared with students must be commercially prepared and packaged. At all levels, bake sales, the sale of home-prepared items at concession stands, and pot-luck meals/fundraisers are no longer permitted.
- Fundraising through the sale of food may not occur prior to or during the school day until at least 30 minutes after the end of lunch service. Fundraisers after that time and up to 30 minutes after the end of the school day must meet the guidelines noted above. Such fundraisers must be approved in advance by the building principal. NOT affected by this restriction: fundraisers in which food is ordered for later delivery and consumption at home, such as frozen food items as well as concession/food sales which take place more than 30 minutes after the end of the school day.
- Parents may continue sending any food, including homemade foods of their choice, to be consumed by their children only.
- Employees may continue bringing in homemade food for District events when the food is consumed only by non-student adults.
- Outside groups that use/rent school facilities may follow their own rules; however, to protect equipment, prevent injury, and reduce the risk of contamination, school kitchens may not be used for any purpose, unless under the direct supervision of a Nutrition Services staff member.
We anticipate many questions about Westside’s Safer & Healthier Foods policy. Please refer to the following topics and answers for more information about this new plan.
Q: Why can’t I bring in homemade cupcakes for my child’s birthday party when we’ve done that for years?
A: Ultimately, student safety is our top priority. Like all school districts, Westside serves many students who, if exposed to certain allergens, could potentially face life-threatening health risks. With no way to determine what is included in a homemade product, we simply cannot put students’ health in danger.
Q: Giving a child candy bars or lollipops at a party isn’t going to hurt them; why can’t we keep doing that?
A: Westside has long focused on health and wellness for our students and employees. These new policies aim to better educate students (and families) about making healthier snack choices, which will not only be better for them in the short run, but potentially impact their food decisions in the long run.
Q: The Bake Sale fundraiser was a huge money-maker for our school and students; why are we taking that away?
A: While we support efforts to create more opportunities for our teachers and students, we cannot risk exposing children to potentially harmful allergens for financial gain. Schools will be allowed to continue these fundraisers, but they will need to adapt the practices by using commercially prepared and packaged food items with labels listing ingredients.
Q: What happens if I forget and arrive at school with several dozen homemade treats for my child’s birthday?
A: You are welcome to bring something else tomorrow, or return to school with non-food items or something from our District-approved list.
Q: You are calling these District-approved snacks healthy but I see cookies, cheese popcorn and other junk food treats. How are any of these options healthy?
A: We worked for several months with a committee of parents, District leaders and a nutritionist to determine best options to still allow food in our schools while making health a priority. These options provide a healthy medium between allowing students to still have ‘treats’, but with lower calories and fat content, all while keeping children with allergens safer.
Q: Why is Westside doing this now?
A: We are constantly reevaluating our policies and procedures to stay current with best practices for the safety and well being of all of our students and staff. This is a policy we revamped after meeting with parents, nutritional experts, District leaders and our Board of Education.
Q: My child has food allergies; how have you selected these specific options?
A: Please note these selections do not cover all of the Top 8 food allergens and we encourage all parents to double check labels and to communicate with teachers and principals about their child’s health. The items on our District approved list do not include peanuts or tree nuts and were not produced in facilities that use peanuts or tree nuts. We also included many gluten-free options for children with a gluten sensitivity or allergy. We encourage you to contact your teacher, principal, or the District office if you learn of a manufacturer or product change that may affects something on our list and students with allergies.
Q: Why can’t we bring in the generic brand, especially because it’s cheaper?
A: All manufacturers follow different guidelines and procedures in their factories, so a generic brand may contain or have come in contact with ingredients that are harmful to our learners. We selected the items included on our list based on federal guidelines and allergen lists; they have been vetted by our experts and included based on our specifications regarding peanuts, tree nuts, etc.
Thank you for your understanding, cooperation, and support as we implement these changes to make our schools safer and healthier.