The Gateway School Board of Directors made a change effective immediately to the district’s recently amended food policy after hearing from concerned parents of students with dietary restrictions at its Sept. 17 meeting.
The unanimously approved change allows parents to send allergy-safe treats to classroom celebrations.
Parents claimed the policy, prior to the change, was too limiting with regard to what could be brought into schools.
“This policy makes it more difficult for me to mitigate the isolating and stigmatizing effects of my son’s food allergies,” said parent Lynn Greenway.
Gateway’s health council, made up of administrators and a board member, recommended to the board over the summer an amendment to a student wellness policy restricting foods that come into schools for classroom celebrations and parties. The policy was approved before the start of the school year, said Martin Lorenzo, the district’s food service director.
Lorenzo said some food making its way into the schools lacked a manufacturer seal or ingredients list. It was difficult for teachers, nurses and administrators to monitor which foods came into the classroom, he said.
“We thought it would probably be in the district’s best interest to control outside food coming into the district because of growing allergies in kids over the past decade or so,” he said.
The policy change included the creation of a list from which teachers can order food and drinks for classroom celebrations. One parent, Adrianne Weaver, said she doesn’t trust the food companies on the list because one, Frito-Lay, has had several allergy recalls.
“I feel more confident in my ability to produce a safe product for the children in the class,” Weaver said.
According to the list, there are 18 snack foods and three drinks from which to choose. The district also included a form listing each item’s nutritional information.
Greenway, who said she has four children with extensive food restrictions due to allergies, said her son can only have carrots without Ranch dressing, an apple and possibly a fruit snack from the list when his class has a party or celebration.
After hearing similar concerns from Greenway’s son and other mothers, the board unanimously approved the change.
“I don’t want those kids to be missing out or be having something that is potentially unsafe while we work this out for the next two months,” said Mary Beth Cirucci, board vice president.
District Superintendent Bill Short said he and Lorenzo will meet in October to consider parents’ concerns and make additional changes to the food policy.
Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Dillon at 412-871-2325, [email protected] or via Twitter @dillonswriting.