Food Rules

vegetables.jpgSchool might be out for the summer, but new school food policy is taking shape now for September. Earlier this week legislation to declare a “Jersey Fresh Farm to School Week” was unanimously approved by the Assembly. Under this measure, students throughout the state would be greeted in the fall by events to educate them about New Jersey’s agriculture and the value of fresh, local produce.

Native New Jerseyans already know we have a diverse range of local produce. We’re not called the Garden State for nothing. But what residents might not know is our state is among the top 10 producers of fruits and vegetables in the nation. Now the schools in this state are finally going to put that status to good use.

Some area schools, though, feel more comprehensive change is needed. To that end they are devising individual food policies governing consumption inside school buildings. A couple of months ago, Montclair’s Nishuane School instituted new snack procedures, specifying a list of approved and banned snacks. Children will be allowed only water at snack time, and if they bring a snack from the contraband list they will not be allowed to eat it. They will be offered pretzels instead. Forbidden foods include fruit roll-ups or gummies; popcorn; chips; candy, cookies and cake of any kind; Rice Crispy Treats; and nuts and peanut butter. Fruits, vegetables, whole grain crackers, yogurt, cheese, hard-boiled eggs, icing-free animal crackers, and low-fat, low-sugar granola bars are all acceptable foods.

The board policy and USDA guidelines do allow for exceptions when it comes to curriculum and celebrations so parents are still allowed to send in small birthday treats. Parents are also permitted control over the lunches they prepare for their children but are encouraged to send a balanced lunch.
Elementary students in Verona aren’t as lucky.

They won’t get any low-fat, icing-free cupcakes to celebrate their birthdays. The schools’ new policy states “food will no longer be served as part of any child’s birthday celebration.” If parents wish, they may send in a non-food treat such as bookmarks or pencils. The policy makes clear the only thing children will be eating in school next year is the food their parents send in from home. Verona schools have not issued a forbidden food list, but bake sales will no longer be allowed during school hours.
This bake sale policy is similar to one instituted recently in New York City public schools, which limits the sales in an effort to combat childhood obesity. In this effort WNYC reported the city’s Health Department took one step further, suggesting fundraising without food. The health department, apparently in line with the Obamas, outlined these suggestions in their booklet titled “Yes You Can! A Fresh Look at Healthy Fundraisers for Schools.” The department hopes to change the parental perception that the easiest and only way to raise money for schools is through food. In fact, many of the ideas in the book such as flower, jewelry and student photo sales came from parent groups. Sales like these, one parent group from Harlem said, raised more money than a pie sale held before Thanksgiving.
Schools across the nation are being challenged by Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign to go the way of the garden state and Big Apple. And Jaime Oliver definitely wants a revolution. He’s already bringing it to the school cafeterias in this country.
Yes, maybe with the combined efforts of the First Lady, Jamie Oliver, and public schools across the nation, we can!
For the elementary students of Verona, however, parties will never be the same. The school will still hold a number of parties, there will just be no food to go with them. The focus will be on activities other than food, and the students can eat the snacks sent in by their parents. But what will become of the annual Thanksgiving Feast? It might become the first feast without food.
(Photo: Flickr: Masahiro Ihara)

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  1. This is so dumb– The part about banning certain foods from a kid’s lunch.
    And really, is only allowing water something to be proud of? Isn’t bread and water the old prison meal? Now with all the carbs in bread, I fear schools are a year away from having a WATER and BEETS ONLY rule.
    Well I guess since parents have abdicated their role in providing good, nutritious meals for kids, the schools- taking up more and more parental slack- are the best place for it….
    I’d rather we focus of the real problem: parents who work too long, don’t value mealtime- at the table, with NO TV- and oh, yea, teaching kids and adults how to cook (still waiting for Alma S. to get a cabinet post so she can slap parents upside the head with her simple and nutritious meals!).
    Remember Jamie Oliver’s storefront kitchen on his show? That’s what we need. Instead we get folks with “gourmet” kitchens who only know how to make “spaghetti” with jar sauce. And maybe pesto…
    Many of us learned to cook at home AND AT SCHOOL. Back in those crazy days when schools taught Home Economics. And had GYM class everyday. And we were allowed to PLAY OUTSIDE.
    Now we teach Chinese and drive kids everywhere….
    And they are fat. (Because of cupcakes at birthday parties, right?)

  2. I don’t suppose there is any chance of getting better school lunches in the elementary school system of Montclair…?

  3. Make them yourself.
    Cheaper. More nutritious.
    Old school, I know. But if you’re waiting for the schools to provide your kid with a good meal, well, keep on waiting…

  4. Yeah- I hear you prof. That said- would be nice to change things …or at least bring up the topics. I think that food guy Jamie everyone is talking about said that prison food was better than what is served in schools. If the schools served less processed food you know the big companies would get into it- as I am sure it is quite a business. There is something to be said for controlling your own little life- and something to be said for attempting to change the businesses of America. Nishaune? Want to get on this??? As you seem to have some a group of peeps so interested in this issue? Tell us what you think can be done… and plenty of kids just get the free school lunch program-

  5. Except for maybe the peanut butter and other nut products (for the sake of kids with allergies), the school as no right to tell parents what they can or can’t pack for their kid’s lunch/snack.
    Water only for snack? Juice is now taboo?
    When I was growing up it was PB&J sandwiches and a box of apple juice for lunch with a packet of those horrible cheese & crakers, fruit rollup, or gummy fruit-snacks for snack time and I was far from obese.
    We also had gym every day, outdoor recess as long as weather permitted and were not only allowed, but encouraged to play outside after school.
    But, I’m sure it’s the fruit rollups and apple juice that are making kids so fat these days…

  6. Actually, snack is given during instructional time, which is at the discretion of the principal. So they can prohibit certain items.

  7. Let the Nanny-State decide EVERYTHING.
    I support all the school lunch reform stuff, but if you wait for the Government to do something you could and should do for yourself– don’t be surprised if it never gets done.
    But these out of control principals, parents and teachers need to calm down and get back teaching and worrying about their own kids.
    Finally, kids are fat because they do not exercise. They do not play outside.
    This ain’t rocket science.
    (But for some, it’s easier to blame High Fructose Corn Syrup rather than parental paranoia that forces kids to play indoors or in a tiny area where they “can be seen.”)

  8. Aren’t we all responsible for taking care of all of “our” kids? It saddens me to say it, but there are a lot of people out there who do not make their kids health a priority for a variety of reasons. Sure, a lot of us have the education, the money and the desire to make our kids health a priority but the reality is that a lot of people don’t. Is it so wrong to try to work together as a community to offer healthier choices wherever our kids are so that everyone’s job is easier? I’m talking about at home, at playdates, during school, at school events and fundraisers, street fairs, etc. It is really not that hard to make a little effort so that social gatherings and snack/meal times where a child is present is not a smorgasbord of garbage food. No, it’s not rocket science, it is a little bit of effort and common sense. There, I said it! 🙂

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