Due to an increasing number of reported food allergies among students at American Academy (including a significant number with life-threatening allergies), we have committed to making every reasonable effort to better ensure safety around food at school.
We know that food is a very an important part of our culture and our history, it’s social and fun, and it can also be a valuable part of an authentic learning experience! However, since our primary directive as a school is to provide students with a safe learning environment, we are eliminating food from the classroom when it’s not educationally valuable, or when there is not reasonable control of the issues of safety.
We also know that parents have lots of great questions! The short story: no food treats are allowed for birthdays at school and no food is allowed at classroom parties to eat or to play with. To address some of the other typical food situations at school, we’ve put together more detailed guidelines -– please see below. In case it’s helpful to know, the major points we have in mind when evaluating food at school practices are as follows:
- Educational value
- Control (parent or school)
RULE: Snacks are allowed, but MUST BE NUT-FREE.
Whenever possible, teachers encourage students to eat snacks on the playground or in the hallways. When snacks must be eaten in the classroom, desks are wiped down before and after snack time. Students are not allowed to share snack items. As a reminder to all parents, daily snacks at school should be healthy, non-perishable, and always nut-free! “Nut-free” means no granola bars with nuts, no Nutella, no peanut butter, no almond butter, no packs of peanut butter crackers, no packages of mixed nuts, etc. Please consider your snack choices carefully and read the packaging on pre-packaged items! If a student brings in nuts or an item with nuts, they will need to go to the front office and call home for an alternative snack.
RULE: No food treats or food-centered activities (sensory boxes, food games, etc.) are allowed.
We know birthdays are a big deal for our students! :) However, food treats for birthdays are no longer allowed due to the double health concern of food allergies and sugar. We know each student only has one birthday a year. But that student has 25+ classmates and each of them also has a birthday to celebrate each year -- the net result is a LOT of opportunities for food allergy contact and a lot of sugar. Though a lot of fun, birthday treats offer no educational value, are a control concern (parents can't know in advance what their student may be served and say no to the excess of sugar or food allergy risk), and they are often served in the classroom location. Parents may choose to send in a non-food treat to share or organize (at teacher discretion) a quick birthday activity instead, if they wish. This practice is happening all over the country as schools work to confront this new challenge, and ideas from other parents abound on the internet. You can contact your student’s teacher for help, too. They totally understand that birthdays are a BIG DEAL!
RULE: No food treats or food-centered activities (sensory boxes, food games, etc.) at classroom parties are allowed.
Food is no longer allowed to be served, handed out in treat bags or eaten at classroom parties. Additionally, food items may not be used in games, sensory boxes, crafts and other projects. But we still want our students to have FUN -– that’s important, too! So, our teachers are already busy working with the room parents to come up with alternative party activities.
RULE: Field trip lunches are allowed, but MUST BE NUT-FREE.
Field trips are wonderful opportunities for experiential learning at a school and have a high educational value. Happily, field trip lunches also take place outside of school, so food is eaten outside the primary classroom location. Parents send in student lunches and can therefore control the items their students eat. Field trip lunches should be healthy, non-perishable meals. And because kids move around a lot and mingle on field trips, field trip lunches should also be NUT-FREE! “Nut-free” means no granola bars with nuts, no Nutella, no peanut butter, no almond butter, no packs of peanut butter crackers, no packages of mixed nuts, etc. Please consider your lunch choices carefully and read the packaging on pre-packaged items! Any items containing nuts or nut products will be confiscated.
RULE: Lunch Bunch lunches are allowed, but MUST BE NUT-FREE.
Lunch Bunch is still okay! But each student must bring in their OWN food and all lunches must be NUT-FREE! The key principle at work here is that parents can control the food that comes in for their own student and teachers can control keeping the location clean. It’s fine for the lead student’s parent to provide the teacher’s lunch and their own student’s lunch, but the student’s friends should plan to bring in their own lunches (or purchase hot lunches in the cafeteria). “Nut-free” means no granola bars with nuts, no Nutella, no peanut butter, no almond butter, no packs of peanut butter crackers, no packages of mixed nuts, etc. Please consider your lunch choices carefully and read the packaging on pre-packaged items! Any items containing nuts or nut products will be confiscated.
Curriculum-Related Events (fall feast, Medieval Day, and STEM units)
RULE: Food is allowed, but must be pre-approved by administration.
The considerations with curriculum-related events are educational value and control. As you might expect in a school, the educational value of an approved curriculum unit using food is, by definition, considered to be high.
Additionally, the school can either control or help pre-determine what limited food items are involved and can give parents control with advanced consent. Curriculum events will be carefully reviewed, evaluated and approved by American Academy administration and school nurses in advance. They will also pre-approve specific food items/recipes. Prior to the start of a unit involving food, teachers will contact parents to let them know about any food allergy potential in connection with the unit so parents may request recipes/ingredients lists and make their own decision about how their student may safely participate. Depending on sensitivity level, students with allergies will participate in all other educational aspects of the unit, and will be permitted and encouraged to bring in alternate food items from home.
Finally, these events tend to be larger and held in locations outside the daily classroom setting (STEM lab, cafeteria) which means the allergy exposure is away from the primary learning environment, the classroom. As always, food offered or used at a curriculum-related even will be NUT-FREE.
RULE: Food is allowed, but must be NUT-FREE.
Extracurricular activities are by definition “extra” (not part of the regular school day) and participation is ALWAYS optional! Food may be served at any of our extracurricular activities, though more likely at some than others. Parents of students with food allergy concerns are responsible for contacting the activity manager to determine if food will be served at any ECA.
Leadership Awards Breakfasts
RULE: Food is allowed, but must be NUT-FREE.
Leadership Award breakfasts and lunches are a fun way for the school to additionally recognize and reward students for demonstrating great character. Because character is an important element of the American Academy mission, the Leadership Award program is considered to have high educational value. And the food is approved and ordered by the school so that we are in control of the food items served and the location in which it’s served. The breakfasts and lunches are always optional, parents are notified in advance so that they can both attend the awards ceremony and alert the school to any student food allergies or sensitives.
Rule: Food is allowed, but must be NUT-FREE.
Sometimes the most compelling incentive for participation or meeting a goal is FOOD. Because, kids and food. We get it! Our PTOs will still be able to offer food and food prizes! In some cases, PTO events take place outside of the regular school day and participation is optional, so food at these events will not be managed or overseen by the school. Parents are responsible for checking in with the PTOs to investigate potential food allergy concerns. When PTO food prizes take place during the day or in the classroom, it will be managed by the school and pre-approved by our school nurse and administration, and parents will have advantage of advanced consent. And our wonderful PTOs are always very eager to work with students with allergies to find wonderful alternatives if necessary!