Local School Wellness Policies: Classroom Celebrations and Parties
August 3, 2006 -- Nearly all of us have a fond memory of a classroom party from our childhood. Whether it is bringing cupcakes to school to celebrate a birthday, sharing candy on Valentine’s Day, savoring a Thanksgiving feast, or enjoying the tastes of a foreign culture in a high school language class, food plays an integral role in many schools.
With the implementation of local school wellness policies, many school districts are adopting new rules and regulations regarding parties. Classroom parties, like fundraising, are subjected to the interpretation and needs of each individual school district. Some districts have very detailed policies regarding the use of food outside of school meals, while other districts are much less stringent in regulating classroom festivities.
This month’s spotlight focuses on how school districts are incorporating classroom celebrations and parties in their local school wellness policies.
Trumbull (Connecticut) Public Schools
This medium sized school district east of New York City adopted a rather broad policy with specific guidelines. While some school districts spend considerable time focusing on the quality of school meals and vending machines, Trumbull’s policy also focused on issues such as allergies, snacks, bagged lunches, and fundraising. In several appendices, the policy includes suggestions for healthy bagged lunches and snacks, alternative rewards, and non-food fundraising items.
Celebration Rules: Proscriptive
The policy states very specific goals for classroom celebrations and parties. “Parties should be coordinated by the elementary room mother and the teacher so that only one treat type food along with healthy foods and activities are included in classroom parties (holiday, seasonal, etc.) organized by the teacher or PTA.” Appendix A includes a list of activities (such as board games, craft projects, and treasure hunts) that teachers, parents, and the PTA could organize instead of focusing parties solely around food. The policy also includes a list of what is considered a “treat type food” (cookies, cupcakes, ice cream, etc.) and appropriate healthy food choices. While the policy provides proscriptive measures for elementary schools, middle and high schools are not addressed. Additionally, food projects that are part of the curriculum are exempt from the policy.
Osceola County (Florida) School District
Osceola County School District’s wellness policy is extremely thorough. The policy spells out very specific rules for food served to students through reimbursable meals, a la carte, and vending machines. There are also some very detailed goals for the district’s physical education program, such as mandatory swimming lessons for kindergarten and first grade. The policy goes into significant detail describing implementation and evaluation procedures.
Celebration Rules: Encouraged
Osceola County’s policy does not mandate specific rules for classroom celebrations and parties, but rather encourages and offers guidance for teachers and parents to follow. The policy states that any organized parties and celebrations should “encourage healthy choices and portion control… especially in elementary schools.” The policy further encourages use of the wellness policy in planning parties and other events.
Columbia (Missouri) School District
The Columbia School District’s wellness policy is extremely broad and very simple. The policy itself is a work in progress, with many of areas covered, while others, such as other school-based activities and nutrition and physical education guidelines, are still being developed.
Celebration Rules: In Development
Columbia has no specific guidelines for classroom celebrations and parties. Rather, the policy states that the district is working on creating procedures and guidelines to address all foods served during the school day.
Omaha (Nebraska) Public Schools
Nebraska’s largest school district chose to implement a broad policy with guidelines, rather than proscriptive rules. Omaha’s policy addresses four key points: nutrition education, physical activity, nutrition standards, and other school-based activities. In each of these areas, attached practices and procedures establish specific goals the district hopes to meet.
Celebration Rules: Not Applicable
There is no mention of classroom celebrations and parties in this policy.