New policy limits use of homemade foods in schools

While new policies being implemented across the country in the past few years still allows students to bring a small baggie of homemade cookies or a homemade muffin to eat with their own lunch, students aren’t allowed to bring in large numbers of homemade treats to share with their classes. And the policies are coming to Lycoming County.

Students in South Williamsport schools are permitted to bring store-bought goodies to share, provided the goodies have clear labels and ingredients that can be read. The limitations are “due to allergies and diabetes,” District wellness committee member and district assistant business manager Jamie Mowrey said. South Williamsport Area School Board adopted a more detailed version of the policy this summer, after more of a trial run during the 2017-18 school year. The policy, which applies only to shared snacks and treats and not students’ individual lunches, falls under a requirement for the district to have a wellness plan in order to participate in the national school lunch program. The policy was fine-tuned by the district’s wellness committee, which includes district parents as well as faculty and cafeteria workers. Mowrey said parents on the committee had a positive reaction to the trial run, and parents throughout the district did not express any negative reactions.

Jersey Shore Area School District is another district in the county working on the details and specifics regarding the policy. District Superintendent Jill Wenrich said the district is consulting with advisories from the federal and state governments, including the U.S. Department of Agricultur­e Smart Snacks in Schools guidelines. As the district irons out the policy, Wenrich said, families have been patient.

“The difficult issue for us has been defining the nutritional standards for non-sold foods that are made available to students during parties or celebrations,” Wenrich said in an email. “Our community has been very understanding.”

Loyalsock Township School District may have been one of the first to address the issue — its policy has been in place for about 10 years. Like South Williamsport, Loyalsock Township allows students to bring in homemade foods for their personal consumption but requires store-bought treats for sharing purposes. The district’s food service department also offers birthday packages that comply with allergy concerns and caloric intake concerns related to diabetic students.

“It has generally been well-received by parents,” district food service director Beth Hufnagel said of the policy in an email. “They understand the importance of keeping our students and their children safe.”

Muncy School District, which adopted a similar policy in 2006, updated it in 2017.