The days of parents swinging by their child’s classroom with a large pink box of cupcakes on their little one’s birthday are gone as the Turlock Unified School District recently updated its Wellness Policy to prohibit sugary treats in the classroom.
In 2004, TUSD formed a Wellness Committee to produce a wellness policy, a requirement per the National School Lunch Program. The wellness policy includes goals for nutrition and education, physical activity and guidelines to promote student health and reduce childhood obesity. TUSD became a model policy for the county, despite the fact that according to recent survey 45.8 percent of District teachers and administrators were not aware that the District had a wellness policy, a testament to the surprise rippling through the District regarding the new regulations.
After much discussion, the TUSD Board of Trustees unanimously approved the new wellness policy that bans food fundraisers from being distributed during school hours, limits celebrations, such as birthdays, to one party per class per month after the lunch period and with food that meets nutritional standards. Approved foods include those with 35 percent calories from fat or less, no more than 10 percent calories from saturated fat, 35 percent sugar by weight or less, less than .5 grams of trans fat per serving, 230 or less milligrams of sodium and no more than 175 calories. This includes fruit, non-fried vegetables, dairy foods, nuts, seeds, legumes, eggs, cheese and whole grain items.
“This is not innocuous. These changes are going to be significant,” remarked trustee Frank Lima at the board meeting on Tuesday.
Similar to when soda and candy were removed from school vending machines and parents were banned from bringing home made dishes to school, the updated wellness policy is seen as a generational shift by the TUSD Department of Child Nutrition. While California has a more restrictive policy than federal regulations, TUSD’s new policy is the first of its kind in that it is implementing stricter rules than the state by disallowing consumption of unhealthy treats and collection of fundraiser food items from midnight to one half hour after school, while the state restricts consumption from one half hour before school to one half hour after school.
“The state regulations just became so restrictive that we took it one more step and said, 'You know what? Why don’t we just do the right thing and eliminate the unhealthy food and not make it an option',” said Scott Soiseth, director of Child Nutrition and Wellness Policy Committee member. “This action shows the values of our District and no one can contest that the wellbeing of their child is important.”
The District is now encouraging fundraising activities that promote physical activity and rewarding students with non-food items. To further its goal of a healthier District, lists of healthy foods, healthy party ideas and non-food related fundraising activities will be distributed. The policy will go into effect July 1.
TUSD Approved Foods:
Fresh fruit and vegetables
Whole grain items
Canned fruit in 100 percent juice only
TUSD Banned Foods: