Why Wellness? Why Now?
As educators and parents, we want to support every effort to develop healthy habits and good choices among all students. Nutrition and physical activity are key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. We also know that healthy children learn better, so the new Rose Tree Media Wellness Policy is timely and important. There have been a lot of questions about the policy and how it affects us at Glenwood. Here are some frequently asked questions and answers that will help you learn more about the policy.
Why did Rose Tree Media develop this policy?
Rose Tree Media has always been interested in supporting health and wellness among our students and staff, but this particular policy was developed in response to a federal mandate that each school district participating in the National School Lunch program (essentially all public schools and some private schools in the country) develop a policy that addresses nutrition education, physical education, physical activity, foods served in school other than the National School Lunch program, and food served at other school based activities. The federal mandate was aimed at addressing the national epidemic of childhood obesity and supporting wellness and healthy lifestyles for all students.
Who decided what should be in the policy?
Last winter an ad hoc committee comprised of administrators, parents, physical education teachers, nurses, representatives from our Food Service Department, a dietician, and others met to develop the policy. We used guidelines from the State Department of Education and the Pennsylvania School Board Administration to address the various areas that were required to be included in the policy.
What changes are taking place at Glenwood as a result of this policy?
The area of change that has sparked the most interest and questions has been the section related to “other foods available during the school day.” The policy states, using language recommended by the PSBA, “All foods available in district schools during the school day shall be offered to students with consideration for promoting student health and reducing childhood obesity.” Each school building in RTM had to decide how to put the policy into action. At Glenwood, a group consisting of parents, classroom teachers, a physical education teacher, the nurse, the guidance counselor, and the principal met to discuss how to interpret this aspect of the policy. The group decided, in the interest of supporting healthy choices, to celebrate students’ birthdays at our monthly Birthday Bash. At the Bash, students who have birthdays that month are recognized in the cafeteria during their lunch periods. The students eat on the stage with the principal, and are served a piece of birthday cake while their classmates sing Happy Birthday. We are encouraging teachers to celebrate students’ birthdays in the classroom in ways that do not involve food. We ask you not to send food or other items to celebrate a student’s birthday at school. Students already have a snack period during the day. In addition, we have students with various food allergies and medical conditions that make monitoring birthday treats sent by other parents quite challenging, and in some case, life threatening. Taking all these factors into consideration, the group at Glenwood chose to be consistent with the practice of the other elementary schools in the district and decided that the monthly Birthday Bash will be the place for birthday treats. Only kindergarten classes will have birthday treats in the classroom.
What about the regular snacks I send in every day for my student?
Think of snack time as a “nutrition break” and use the opportunity to provide fruit or vegetable snacks, or whole grain snacks such as whole grain crackers and low fat cheese. Often it is hard to get the recommended 5 fruits/vegetables and 3 servings of whole grains a day. A nutrition break with fruit, vegetables, or whole grains will go a long way in helping your child meet his or her daily dietary recommendation.
What about holiday parties?
We will continue to have classroom parties to celebrate Halloween, Winter Holidays, Valentine’s Day, and the end of the school year. The Nutritional Standard published by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Division of Food and Nutrition, is as follows: Classroom parties will offer minimal amount of foods (maximum 2-3 items) that contain added sugar as the first ingredient and will provide the following: fresh fruits and vegetables, water, 100% fruit juice, or milk.
How can I make the lunches I pack for my child healthier?
Make the switch to whole grain breads. These supply more nutrients and fiber than breads that are not whole grain. Children and adults should eat at least 3 servings of whole grains a day. A slice of whole grain bread is considered one serving. Check the ingredient label of bread for the words “whole grain.” Oat, corn, and rye flours are whole grains. Phrases like “stoned wheat,” “cracked wheat,” “wheat flour,” or “multigrain” do not necessarily indicate whole grains. Graham crackers and pop corn are also whole grain products. Fruits and vegetables make great snacks for lunch and help children meet the recommend five or more servings of fruits and veggies every day. Fruit is naturally sweet so most kids love it. You can serve it whole, sliced, cubed, etc. Unsweetened apple sauce and other pre-packed single servings of fruit are easy to pack. Dried fruits like raisins, apricots, cranberries, and cherries are also great for the lunch box, but many of the processed “fruit chews” and fruit strips are more like candy than fruit. Pack water or 100% juice drinks.
Just how healthy are Glenwood’s school lunches?
Our school lunches are required to meet certain federal and state guidelines and are monitored at the state level for fat content, calories, protein, etc. Periodically auditors examine a week’s menu to make certain that all the guidelines are met. There are many ways our Food Service Department has improved the nutritional content of food served in our cafeteria over the past few years. For example, some of the pizza is now served on whole grain crust. Many of the buns and sandwich breads are whole grain. Packaged chip-type snacks are baked, and all snacks/desserts contain no trans fats and have a maximum of 35% calories from sugar and fat. Did you know that chicken nuggets are baked and the hot dogs are low fat turkey dogs? Fresh fruit, vegetables, and salad are also regular components of the menu.
What other activities at Glenwood are supporting good nutrition as addressed in the Wellness Policy?
Ask your student about taste testing healthy foods in the cafeteria. We recently had a taste testing of whole grain breads. Last year we tried 3 colors of peppers. I am hoping that we’ll be able to let the students taste test a healthy food item each month. In February, we are looking forward to celebrating Valentine’s Day with some heart healthy snacks in classroom parties. The Wellness Policy provides opportunities for each of us to lead by example and to encourage healthy food choices for our students and families.