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Board Eyes Tighter Food Restrictions at Northport-East Northport Schools

BOE targets life-threatening allergies; would control food brought in for birthday celebrations.

A new policy considered for Northport-East Northport Schools would address special management procedures for students with life threatening allergies.

The policies, presented at the Monday Board of Education meeting, would include specific measures to control what food can be shared during birthday celebrations and other activities. A wellness policy with related provisions, in place since 2006, is also under review.

Student Health Services cites the school system's responsibility, along with parents/guardians, to provide a safe and healthy environment for students, and delineates procedures to maintain a healthy learning environment specific to those with a life-threatening allergy.

If adopted, the policy would supplement the existing wellness policy that delineates standards for physical activity, nutritional value of foods sold on premises, and storage and labeling of food brought to school for general distribution.

In its new consideration, the wellness policy includes a number of steps addressing allergies, including creation of a management team, and a rule that pets and animals be banned from school buildings. 

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According to the two measures, distribution of food for general consumption by students and faculty members would also be controlled. This would include birthday parties, holiday celebrations, school projects, classroom lessons, and food provided as "any type of reward or incentive program."

The district focuses in detail on how birthdays are celebrated in the schools. According to the terms being proposed, classes would be strongly encouraged to limit celebrations involving food to once a week in grades K-3 and once a month in grades 4-12.

“Non-food celebrations such as songs, games, book sharing and/or physical activity deemed appropriate by the classroom teacher are strongly encouraged as an alternative to food-based celebrations,” reads the proposed wellness policy.  “The celebration should take place after the class has had lunch and as close to dismissal as possible. A healthy choice, such as fruit or vegetables, is strongly encouraged."

In their discussion board, BOE Vice President Jennifer Thompson noted the wellness policy dates back to 2006. “The new policy was drafted by our nurses, from a template,” she added. “Some ideas about allergies have been changed since the wellness policy was implemented.”

Review of the policy on birthday celebrations comes at the request of elementary school principals, said Superintendent Marylou McDermott, and address not just life-threatening allergies, but such issues as dietary restrictions, religious observances, and parents’ dietary concerns.

“I’d like to see this policy reflect what the community wants,” noted Trustee David Badanes. Added trustee Lori McCue: “I think we want to fully engage the community before we change the policy.”

Both policies were tabled following discussion.

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Concerned Citizen September 25, 2012 at 06:25 PM
That’s nonsense you're spewingTrustee Badanes. "Engage the community" means that some PTA moms are panicking that their overweight little cherubs will not get mommy’s cookies and cupcakes every day before lunch. It does not matter if the home baked goods were prepared in appropriate sanitary conditions or if some peanut based ingredients will be distributed to a child with life-threatening allergic conditions… As long as we have a birthday party in school every day. Be a leader Mr. Badanes and protect children.
Leah Bush (Editor) September 25, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Maybe limiting food as a reward or incentive could prove to be a good thing overall...
Lin September 25, 2012 at 11:26 PM
I am confused...food celebrations are already banned at the elementary level... This is happening without the policy in place?
Scamp September 26, 2012 at 02:09 AM
"In its new consideration, the wellness policy includes a number of steps addressing allergies, including creation of a management team, and a rule that pets and animals be banned from school buildings." like no fish or hamsters in the classroom or no people walking their dogs on school grounds
kptree September 26, 2012 at 11:12 AM
Yup. The district announced their "no food policy" and then a parent showed up at one of the first meetings, armed with documentation that the district hadn't taken proper measures to implement the policy.
kptree September 26, 2012 at 11:15 AM
What are you talking about? Badanes and McCue are simply inviting public input. As a matter of fact, the district and the BOE have to put this policy before the public. A "no-food" policy was made public at the beginning of the school year. Then a parent went before the Board to let them know that the district can't make this decision unilaterally. There has to be public information and comment sessions. That is probably what Badanes and McCue are talking about and covering their bases. Where does it say they oppose the new wellness initiatives?
mr September 26, 2012 at 11:37 AM
Once again common sense goes out the window. Really? How many kids in each class? 20? Do you really think 20 cupcakes per year cause obesity? All of my kids were allowed to bring in a treat for their birthdays and guess what? No one died. The kids who had allergies knew what they could and couldn't eat and I'd like to believe that no one became instantly obese. My one child who is left in the elementary school is now allowed a song on his birthday. Yeah, that's fun. Aren't there more important issues facing our children today? We micromanage these kids about crazy things and there are kids from the middle school doing drugs behind my house. Wake up people.
kptree September 26, 2012 at 11:51 AM
@mr- I happen to agree that a birthday treat won't cause obesity but the new policy is a smart one. First of all, why do we even allow birthday treats? What is wrong with celebrating a birthday with a song or special recognition? Birthday treats were not part of a school's fabric until the late 60s or 70s. 30-40 years hardly makes them sacrosanct. The commenter, Concerned Citizen, as unfair as he/she is to BOE members, actually makes good points: a. how do we now the treats at home were prepared in sanitary conditions b. how do we now that they do not contain ingredients that would harm children with life threatening allergies? Did you know that in the NPT/ENPT elementary schools, children with allergies have to supply their own snacks for every birthday celebration and class party? It may not be a big deal for the child's parents to have to supply upwards of 25 "special snacks" but think of the time it takes the children's teachers to coordinate those snacks. I know of one class where 7 children had food allergies. That means the teacher had to take instructional time away to retrieve and coordinate snacks for 7 different children plus the birthday child. Food allergies are much more prevalent and severe than they were years ago. Also, what do cupcakes and drugs have to do with one another? That's a leap by any stretch. Those "middle school" kids had "birthday treats". It didn't stop them from taking illegal drugs, did it?
Tom Dewick September 26, 2012 at 12:07 PM
My kid is bringing kielbasa and sauerkraut to school on his birthday.
NPTGirl September 26, 2012 at 12:12 PM
What about holiday celebrations? I remember being a student at Norwood Avenue and parents bringing in traditional food for us to try. Nothing wrong with that. Learning about other cultures in our little sheltered world that we live in here in northport couldn't hurt. Not even fruit or cheese and crackers purchased at a store will be allowed. I'm not so sure I agree 100% with this policy.
kptree September 26, 2012 at 02:16 PM
Maybe, NPTGirl, instead of having to fall back on food, parents will bring in traditional music, pictures, clothing, videos, stories, etc. Most "traditional" food in the U.S., especially in regards to Italian, Chinese, and Mexican cultures is actually not even found in the original country or it is a far different version. I want to point out that this policy, as described in the Patch, doesn't prohibit food from being brought in whereas the notices in the beginning of the year forbade food for celebrations. There seems to be some discrepancy on the part of the district.
KL September 26, 2012 at 03:23 PM
Common sense = personal accountability. everyone is looking for a reason why kids are fat today. What they should do is have the parents look in the mirror, there is the root of the problem.
kptree September 26, 2012 at 05:44 PM
KL you are right. In the NPT/ENPT school district the number of children relying on the schools to feed them breakfast and lunch is negligible. They are eating breakfast and dinner at home and maybe? purchasing lunch. Their weight and health are dependent on the nutrition provided by their caregivers. However, this wellness policy doesn't negate personal responsibility. 1. It protects the students and relieves the district of liability in the case of life threatening food allergies. 2. It shifts the focus of "food" as a reward and opens the door to creative ideas for celebrations- art, crafts, writing, song, etc. 3. It gives good nutrition messages to children whose parents are not educated or responsible when it comes to food 4. It frees up teachers from being food monitors or snack coordinators 5. It saves money for families who perhaps can't afford to purchase snacks for the entire class or don't want to compete with those parents whose "Martha Stewart" gene drives them to make elaborate themed cupcakes or cookies. You are 100% right- doing away with food treats in school won't make a difference in the weight of a NPT/ENPT student. It's not just about obesity- it's also about protecting students.
mr September 26, 2012 at 10:28 PM
kptree, I am not equating cupcakes with drugs. My point is that we are spending so much time and valuable resources on NONSENSE. So many children today are messed up and it isn't because they ate cupcakes for snacks or built a gingerbread house during the holidays. The district needs to deal with real issues. This is not that important.
kptree September 26, 2012 at 11:27 PM
@mr, you are absolutely right about the need for the district to deal with both illegal drug use and illegal use of prescription drugs as well as social and emotional issues that are so prevalent today. Why, though, is a wellness policy nonsense? For a student with life threatening allergies, the need for safety is paramount. The Patch is reporting about a small part of the wellness policies that NPT/ENPT is seeking to adopt. The district is trying to shape its policy in regards to food served in the cafeteria, adopting excellent health and wellness curriculum, and make sure that students are kept safe.
ISinkSo September 27, 2012 at 04:42 PM
Why is it food allegies seem to be so prevalent in elementary school, but in high school they seem to be non-exsistent?
kptree September 28, 2012 at 12:30 AM
Food allergies aren't non-existent in high school, class parties and birthday treats disappear. What high schooler has to worry about cupcakes in class? By middle school a child is allowed to carry an Epi-pen on them in case of emergencies. They are mature enough to read complicated food labels and to, hopefully, advocate for themselves. Sorry to deflate your glee at your "theory" ISinkSo, but it just doesn't hold water.
jill October 17, 2012 at 12:53 AM
Insead of Serving hot lunch in school what if the parents made lunch for the kids and they brought it to school. This would save money on having to purchase the food to feed to the kids and it would ensure that the kids would be eating healther food.

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