School-day bake sales or donut sales will be limited under a new wellness policy recently passed by the Vigo County School Board.
In addition, classroom celebrations involving food will be limited as well.
The changes are part of a revised wellness policy, mandated for all districts that participate in the National School Lunch Program. Policies had to be in place by July 1.
“The federal government has changed nutritional guidelines in a lot of things,” said Tom Balitewicz, Vigo County schools director of student services. A committee worked to revise the VCSC policy.
“It’s a big change,” he said. “I think for the most part, people are OK with it. It is healthier, and we want that for our students.”
But, he said, “There will be some growing pains.”
During the school day, any foods sold must meet the federal nutritional standards, and the school day is defined as midnight until a half-hour after school ends. Among the significant changes are those related to fundraising during the school day and classroom celebrations, Balitewicz said.
According to the VCSC policy, any foods sold during the school day [such as a la carte or fundraisers] must meet the following nutrition standards: No more than 30 percent of total calories from fat; less than 10 percent of total calories from saturated fats; 0 percent trans fats; no more than 35 percent of calories from total sugars; no more than 200 milligrams of sodium per portion as packaged; and no more than 200 calories per package.
Foods can be checked to see if they meet the criteria using a so-called “Smart Snack calculator,” which can be found at https://foodplanner.healthiergeneration.org/calculator.
According to the VCSC wellness policy, fundraisers selling food items that do not meet federal nutrition standards are limited to two per school building per year. In the past, they might have included bake sales or donut sales, Balitewicz said.
There are no limits on fundraisers that meet the nutritional standards.
Classroom celebrations that include food, such as for birthdays, will be limited to one per month and food items do not have to meet the nutrition standards. However, they must be purchased from a store with the nutritional value indicated on the packaging. Also, parents and the health assistant must be notified at least three days in advance so special consideration can be given to those with food allergies or diabetes.
Classrooms integrating food as part of the curriculum, such as world language classes, are not subject to the wellness policy, but teachers should notify the school administration, the policy says.
One noticeable change already implemented occurred when North and South Vigo high school booster clubs stopped selling milkshakes at lunchtime, and instead, changed to frozen yogurt; the change was necessary to reduce calories. The fundraisers support academic banquets honoring students.
School cafeterias also have been making changes for school breakfasts and lunches as required by the federal “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act” of 2010.
According to the policy, concession stands that operate outside of the school day will not be regulated under the wellness policy, but school stores that operate during the school day will fall under the policy.
Jackie Lower, school board member who serves on the school health advisory council, believes the wellness policy “is a start. I think the health and wellbeing of our students is a major concern, especially in Vigo County, because I think we have a lot of obesity.”
It’s not just serving health food — which is already being done in school cafeterias. “It’s getting the kids to eat it. They like it once they try it,” she said, and she gave the example of students liking the frozen yogurt shakes once they tried them.
The policy also has a section dealing physical activity and physical education. Lower noted that many schools, especially at the elementary level, provide incentives for students to participate in exercise programs, which might include running or other activities.
“We have inroads to go, but I think it’s good to have our focus on [wellness],” Lower said.
Two VCSC high school students, who are interns with the district this summer, suggested the changes are good for students. “I think it will be a better option for us,” said Earl McClendon, who will be a senior at North Vigo in 2017-18. Students don’t always make the kind of healthy choices they should. “I think it’s best for us and the school.”
Incoming South Vigo senior Keiona Cooper agrees. “Some of us have our own opinions, but I think the majority of our school will like the idea of healthier food,” she said.