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Strict nutritional regulations affect food fundraisers

Written by Anyi Cheng

A series of regulations on foods for sale and giveaway on Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) campuses has been slowly taking effect. Most recently, Student Executive Council (SEC) faced issues from PAUSD Food Services over the Aug. 26 Donut Feed, where SEC members handed out free donuts to students on the quad.

“The District Board Policy states that student organizations cannot even give away food of minimal nutritional value, which includes donuts according to this ruling,” Student Activities Supervisor Lisa Hall said.

According to California’s Project Leaders Encouraging Activity and Nutrition (LEAN), snacks distributed in schools must follow specific nutritional requirements. Qualifying snacks must not have “more than 35 percent of total calories from fat,” as the Project LEAN Quick Fact Sheet in the Student Activities Center states. Lunch entrees are limited to 400 calories, with “no more than 4 grams of fat per 100 calories.”

“They’ve been rolling out tighter restrictions pretty much every year,” Hall said. “It used to be that we were allowed to give away food, and restrictions were only on the food that was sold.”

According to Gunn’s Nutritional Services Di- rector Alva Spence, some recently implemented legislation on the state and federal level includes the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, which makes receiving fruit and vegetable portions mandatory for students who buy lunch. The Smart Snack rules are another regulation on what kinds of snacks, beverages and entrees can be served throughout the school day. “The regulations have changed every year for a while now, and I would expect that that process will continue as we see the overall impact on childhood obesity,” Spence said.

Last year, food fundraisers and other school-wide “feeds” similar to the Donut Feed often took place on campus. This year, however, more food services officials are on campus to monitor student food activity because of the additional district rules regarding food. The officials are required to report violations of food regulations to the district’s Food Services department.

Spence works with these officials to make sure the school complies with regulations. “As we see things on campus that are out of compliance, we bring them up to the school site administration and review the regulations and school board policies covering these areas,” Spence said.

The state and district food restrictions apply to clubs as well, which is why Club Day booths this year had no cookies or candy to offer students and club-run food fundraisers have ceased. “They’re not happy about it, but they’re also not interested in flouting the law,” Hall said. “I try to help them figure out ways they can do food fundraisers and what kinds of foods they can sell or give away.” She advises clubs to base foods sold off the snacks in the vending machines, all of which are supposed to meet nutritional guidelines.

Spence believes the nutritional regulations are necessary. “It is our job as educators to help educate students to make good, healthy choices in all facets, and food is a really important one,” she said. “I think the regulations are a step in the right direction.”

Student Body President senior Isabelle Blanchard thinks the food regulations have good purpose but are restrictive. “I understand where they are coming from and the intention for us to be healthier, but I do think sometimes it’s unfortunate that we can’t keep up with certain traditions,” she said.

Blanchard remains optimistic and believes that despite the food regulations, food sales and other food traditions can still take place. “There are some ways to work around [the rules],” Blanchard said. “They just allow us to look into new options and get more creative with what we give out and when.”

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