ICCSD Makes Changes to Food Guidelines

February 27, 2015

Everyone recalls bringing birthday treats to school when they were younger, the excitement of knowing that a delicious cupcake was waiting right after recess. However that tradition, among others, may be changing starting next fall. The Iowa City Community School District and The Wellness/Blue Zones School Committee have proposed changes to the district’s food policy. The policy asks students to celebrate birthdays or other celebrations without food, or with fruits, vegetable, or other foods that meet specific guidelines for amount of fat, salt, and calories. This protocol also asks teachers to not give students food as rewards that don’t meet the new guidelines. Susie Poulton, Director of Health and Student Services for the ICCSD explains the positive effects of the new rules.

food rules“Families and students won’t be “pressured” to bring birthday treats; it will be more equitable across the district,” says Poulton.

While the ICCSD currently has a policy regarding birthday treats and other school snacks, Poulton believes it needs improvement.

“The district also has a Wellness Policy that “encourages” healthy foods be provided for birthday celebrations, classroom parties, classroom snacks, etc. but the policy language needs to be stronger,” says Poulton

Another concern that will be addressed by the new policy is allergies. The policy requests all packaged foods brought for birthdays or other events are “healthy” and have food labels.

“The number of students with food allergies continues to increase and we have to be sensitive to these allergies and avoid possible exposures to unsafe foods,” Poulton says.

These new policies will help insure kids are not being exposed to things they are allergic to as well as help include them in celebrations rather than isolate them because of their allergies.

However not everyone is in support of these new changes to the district’s food rules. Eva Reynolds, a student at Horace Mann Elementary School doesn’t think the birthday rules are necessary or wanted by students.

“I don’t like [the food rules] because [on] birthdays you’re supposed to have fun and this year I had to bring in only juice boxes and everybody was wanting something more, I don’t like it”.

Reynolds is not the only one who thinks the rules prohibiting certain birthday treats are excessive, Ben Smith, a City High Student and an employee at the Lincoln Elementary School after school program agrees with Reynolds.

In small schools, like in Iowa City, I don’t see kids bringing birthday treats as much of a problem

— Ben Smith

“I think that is kind of outrageous. I can see the regulation if it is everyday something you are giving the kids consistently, like a snack after school, having the  need for regulations,” Smith says. “I would think that in small schools, like in Iowa City, I don’t see kids bringing birthday treats as much of a problem.”

However Smith does see the value in having some reasonable food rules for students.

“I definitely think  with the increased amount of saturated fat in foods, it’s important to have regulations”.

Poulton also thinks the food rules are beneficial in setting a positive example regarding the problem of obesity.

“Obesity continues to be a problem among students and families, and we must send the message that special events can be celebrated without having unhealthy foods”.

Even some feel the ICCSD’s new policies regarding food are excessive, the school district is proposing these rules to teach students that unhealthy food are not needed to have an enjoyable time.

“Celebrations do not have to center around food, especially unhealthy foods,” says Poulton.


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