Food policy sparks debate

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NAUGATUCK — A proposed school policy that could change the way classroom birthday and holiday celebrations are handled led to a heated exchange at the June 11 Board of Education meeting.

Board member Glenn Connan was irate at language stating that no home baked goods will be allowed in school and other protocol intended to keep children with food allergies safe.

“The kids are only young once,” Connan yelled before tearing apart his copy of the proposal in front of school Food Services Director Kate Murphy in the Western Elementary School gymnasium. “To take away the special fun we had when we were kids is shameful. It will never have my vote.”

The board tabled action on the proposed policy until next month.

The committee that proposed the policy consists of school board members, parents, nurses and students. Deb Sauers, nursing supervisor for the district who was on the committee, said the goal of the three-page policy is to encourage children and parents to make healthy choices.

The amount of students who have food allergies has increased at least 30 percent in the past decade, she said.

The policy states the following about food being brought into classrooms:

• Only products that are certified and/or documented nut free and indicate the product was processed in a nut-free facility will be allowed in the school cafeteria;
• Baked items used for classroom celebrations may only be provided by the school cafeteria;
• The nurse and principal must decline the food item if there is any question of product safety.

“We need to make sure it is certified to be safe for the kids who have nut allergies because cross contamination for a peanut allergy kid will kill them,” she said. “We’re not talking about a stomach ache or a headache. We’re talking about death.”

There is other language in the proposal that addressed nutrition education. For example, it states that the schools aim to teach, encourage and support healthy eating by students.

“Classroom health education should complement physical education by reinforcing the knowledge and self-management skills needed to maintain a physically active lifestyle and to reduce time spent on sedentary activities, such as watching television.”