Okay, I hope this is the place I’m supposed to submit my “topic,” so here it goes. I’m the parent of 4 children that attend school in the Elmore County school system and I’m the PTO president at WIS, I’m a PTO board member at WES and I’m the Vice-President of the new RES. Yes, I know, I’m over-extended, but that’s not what this post is about ( but, I do plan to submit a later topic on the need for more parent volunteers and participation in the Wetumpka school system). Needless to say, I plan a lot of PTO and school events. The topic of Nutrition seems to be coming up a lot more lately and has become quite an issue with me and for the different PTO’s in which I am involved. First of all, most of us are aware of the restrictions that the county nutritionist has put out about not having sweets in the classroom (or at school at all) and wanting healthier choices in the lunchroom. Overall, I, and probably most of the other Elmore county parents, understand and agree that we do want healthy and nutritious food for our kids in the lunch room and in the school environment. However, I believe that the policies, as they stand, are way too strict and have too many gray areas and are, in essence, making our teachers and principals be food police instead of the educators they need to be and want to be.
I, for one, have not liked the fact that the nutrition policies, in regard to sweets and “outside” foods, are being so strictly enforced. It is causing the principals to almost completely eliminate class parties. And yes, I know that school parties are not mandatory and don’t usually serve an educational purpose per say but they are great incentives for kids during the year. There is so much stress being put on our kids and teachers right now in regard to test scores and performance, shouldn’t there be a couple of times a year when it is okay to have a little fun?
As I understand it, the nutrition policies are set out by the federal government and then left to the state and counties to interpret the polices and apply them at the local level. As it stands now, I do not believe that the current nutrition policies are benefiting us on the local level. An example that just came up this past week would be the Muffins for Moms and the Donuts for Dads events that WIS (Wetumpka Intermediate School) hosts each year in April so children can invite their parent or parents to breakfast. It’s also a sort of thank you to the parents for their support of the PTO during the school year. It is a nice event in which we have always had great participation and feedback. Well, last week we were informed by the County Nutritionist that we would not be able to hold this event on school property any longer due to the county nutrition policy. A lot of calls were made to the Superintendent’s office and after a number of discussions we have been given the go ahead to have the events. I do want to say that I am very thankful to the Superintendent’s office for working with us on this event. But, being on three PTO boards, I get a lot of feedback from teachers and parents and these are certainly not the only events that are affected by the current nutrition polices. I’ve been told that teachers will have to remove all refrigerators from the classrooms. So, they will no longer have a place to keep cold drinks or snacks or even their personal lunches. I’ve been told that no teacher is allowed to bring “unapproved” food for their personal lunch. An example I was given was that if a teacher and their family have Pizza Hut for their dinner, the next day the teacher can not even bring a piece of that Pizza Hut pizza for their own lunch in the WIS lunchroom the next day. Other teachers have said they have received harsh reprimands for having Pizza parties (or other reward parties) during school hours and have been warned that not fully complying with the current nutrition policies would reflect badly on their personal files. I have also been informed that there are some gray areas as to whether the PTO or other school affiliated groups will be allowed to sell food at events such as our annual PTO Board Meeting and Hot Dog Supper, or sell pizza at the upcoming WIS Arts Festival.
I, as a PTO representative and a parent, feel like many of the aforementioned county nutrition polices are just unacceptable. I am planning to have a meeting with the Superintendent and share my concerns about these matters. I am also going to request that this matter be put on the agenda for the April or May county school board meeting. I, personally, feel like there needs to be some amendments made to the current policies. For example, I believe that each teacher should have at least two events per year, per classroom, where outside food may be brought in. I feel as though each school should be allowed food compliance leniency for annual school-wide events. I do not believe that the polices should be enforceable in any form or fashion for events that take place after school hours, such as school-wide PTO meetings and other after-school functions. Most of the time, these are money-raising events for the PTO, teachers, and school, and serving food almost always goes along with those functions.
By writing about this matter I’m hoping to put information out there for parents that might not have been aware of the far-reaching effects of these nutrition policies and what they really mean to our students and teachers in the classroom setting. I’m also hoping that some of the parents that read this will even take the time to send a nice note to the Superintendent’s office and let them know how you feel about this matter.
Thanks for giving me a forum to share these thoughts.