Treats and Food Policy at Seward

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December 16, 2013

Dear Parents and Guardians of Seward Montessori Students,

Seward Montessori is committed to providing a school environment that promotes and protects children’s health, well-being, and ability to learn. In support of this commitment, Seward is instituting changes in compliance with MPS Regulation 6690 C (Food in Classrooms), adopted in 2011.

To follow this regulation, and also because of the significant increases in food allergies, diabetes, and childhood obesity, we have changed the policy regarding classroom celebrations here at Seward. As recently as ten years ago, there were few students with food allergies in the school. Since then, the number of students and the number of allergens has increased every year. Currently, we have more than two dozen students with life-threatening food allergies, as well as other students with less severe food allergies. Foods students are allergic to include: peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, dairy, honey, eggs, citrus, seafood, and tomato products. These are common ingredients in most foods and very difficult to avoid. We also do not want students with allergies or diabetes to be excluded when they can’t eat the birthday treats.

Because of this, WE ARE NO LONGER ALLOWING ANY TYPE OF FOOD ITEMS FOR CELEBRATIONS AT SCHOOL.

We understand that this may be disappointing to families and students, and that there is a long tradition of families bringing in cupcakes or other treats for personal celebrations. However, the safety and health of all students must be the priority. If food is brought to school, we will be asking that you take it home. Please note that this does not mean that children’s birthdays will not be celebrated, as many K-5 teachers will continue with Montessori classroom traditions for celebrating birthdays. It simply means that food may no longer be included.

Note, we are not eliminating snack time. Students may still bring a healthy snack each day for snack time. Please see the Frequently Asked Questions below for additional information. Please feel free to contact me at Seward with any questions regarding this policy.

Thank you so much for your cooperation in keeping all of our students safe and healthy.

Sincerely,

Jessica Patterson, RN, School Nurse
612-668-4953


Frequently Asked Questions about the Policy for Classroom Celebrations and Treats

• What has changed about the policy regarding classroom celebrations?

In the past, students have been allowed to bring treats to share with their classmates to celebrate birthdays or other occasions. The policy is now being changed to follow district policy that states that food will not be served on these occasions. If food is brought to school, it will be sent home with the student.

• Why was the change necessary?

There are several reasons for this change. The most important reason is the large number of students at Seward with life-threatening food allergies. We have students with allergies to many common ingredients (nuts, soy, dairy, honey, wheat, etc.). Some of these students can have a severe allergic reaction just from one bite of food containing one of their allergens. A severe allergic reaction can cause death within minutes.

Also, we have students with diabetes who are often unable to eat the classroom treats due to the high levels of sugar and carbohydrates.
Cost is another factor; as supplying store-bought treats for 30 or more students can be very costly.

Lastly, this change is in line with MPS Regulation 6690-C, which prohibits the use of food for classroom celebrations. This policy is aimed at improving the health and safety of MPS students.

• What happens during an allergic reaction?

During a severe allergic reaction, the body reacts to the allergen as a foreign substance, setting off an immediate chain reaction in the person’s immune system. This reaction can cause swelling and closing of the airways, drop in blood pressure, loss of consciousness, and possibly death.

• Aren’t there medications that can stop the reaction?

There are emergency medications that may stop the reaction (such as an Epi-pen injection). However, even if the medication does work, 911 must always be called, as the medication may only relieve the symptoms temporarily. This can be a very frightening situation for a child and can result in costs to the family for emergency medical care.

• Can’t ingredient lists be checked for foods that cause allergic reactions?

Ingredient lists can be very difficult to read. It is unrealistic to expect families or school staff to be able to read and interpret long and complex ingredient lists. This can result in a student eating a food that he or she believes is safe and having an allergic reaction.

• Can’t you pass out lists of treats that would be safe?

This is not recommended. Because companies sometimes change ingredients or processing, some foods which at one time were nut-free may later contain nut products or be packaged in a facility that has nuts. In addition, the district regulation that we are following prohibits the use of any food in classroom celebrations.

• What can my student bring to class to celebrate their birthday?

We ask that families not send any party items, small gifts, or gift bags to school to celebrate birthdays. Our Montessori classrooms have wonderful traditions for celebrating the milestones in our students’ lives. Ask your child’s teacher how he or she celebrates students’ birthdays and what you can do to participate.

• If there are no students with allergies in the classroom, why can’t that classroom have treats?

There may be students with allergies that are not known to the school. Also, this would be treating one class differently from the others, which is not recommended. The other factors listed above (cost, district Food in Classrooms policy, etc.) are reasons as well.

In summary, the risk of accidental exposure and life-threatening allergic reaction is simply too big of a risk to take. Times have changed, students’ needs have changed, and we have to recognize these changes and respond appropriately.

Please contact school nurse Jessica Patterson with any questions | 612-668-4953.