We begin the 16-17 school year in Worthington next Wednesday, August 17th. As the new year begins we will be making some changes in how we deal with food in our elementary schools. As we continue to change and evolve we recognize that many of our students are dealing with significant food allergies or dangerous medical issues such as childhood diabetes. By making some adjustments to our policies and practices this year we will be able to provide our students with a safer school environment.
In case you are not familiar with the seriousness of food allergies today, researchers estimate that up to 15 million Americans have food allergies. This potentially deadly disease affects 1 in every 13 children (under 18 years of age) in the U.S. and that’s roughly two students in every classroom. According to a study released in 2013 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, food allergies among children increased approximately 50% between 1997 and 2011. The number of people who have a food allergy is growing, but there is no clear answer as to why.
Every 3 minutes, a food allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency department – that is more than 200,000 emergency department visits per year. A reaction to food can range from a mild response (such as an itchy mouth) to anaphylaxis, a severe and potentially deadly reaction. Eight foods account for 90 percent of all reactions: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish.
In Worthington Schools our food service team will no longer sell peanut butter products in our elementary school cafeterias. In addition, we have instituted a new interactive food service menu which will allow you to view nutrition information for each food, filter the menu for specific food allergies, and see the carb counts for each food. You can view the new interactive menu here: http://worthington.nutrislice.com/
In addition, while at school, we will ask our teachers to no longer use food as a routine incentive for students in class. Maybe an even larger shift is that while we want to acknowledge and celebrate each student’s birthday because doing so is an expression of each child’s special place in the world and our school community, we will be asking for parent cooperation in celebrating birthdays in the classroom without food of any kind (we may still celebrate with pencils, stickers, games, puzzles, etc.. but not with food). Once again, with the growing presence of food-borne allergies and student medical limitations, these moves will help ensure the well-being of each child.
Later this week all elementary parents will receive an email that will outline these changes in more detail and also discuss how we plan to handle school and classroom parties as well as parent-provided snacks during the school day. Please look for this email in your inbox Thursday or Friday.
While these changes may be difficult at first, by partnering together we hope to make our classrooms safer for all students.
-Trent Bowers, Superintendent
Here are a few links that I would encourage you to explore which I hope will help you understand why we are choosing to make these changes: