Families

Schools encourage celebrating holidays with healthy choices

When thinking about holiday treats to share, Bellingham schools encourage these thinking about serving food that includes minimally processed “whole” foods, especially fruits and vegetables; limits salt and sugar; avoids artificial colors, flavors and additives.
When thinking about holiday treats to share, Bellingham schools encourage these thinking about serving food that includes minimally processed “whole” foods, especially fruits and vegetables; limits salt and sugar; avoids artificial colors, flavors and additives. Getty Images

Holidays, even birthday celebrations, can be a tricky time for parents and schoolchildren, especially as they grapple with what kind of food and treats are appropriate and allowed.

Jessica Sankey, director of Wellness for Bellingham Public Schools, provided some guidance.

What is the Bellingham School District’s policy or guidelines when it comes to holiday treats?

We are in the midst of revising and implementing a Wellness Policy for Bellingham Public Schools, which includes our Good Food Promise and guidance for families and teachers around celebrations and food.

Are there rules for what children/parents can bring to school for others to share at holiday time?

We encourage these three simple food values for overall guidance when thinking about serving food in our schools:

▪  Eat plenty of minimally processed “whole” foods, especially fruits and vegetables;

▪  Limit salt and sugar. Choose healthy fats;

▪  Avoid artificial colors, flavors and additives.

We are continuing to work with families and staff to think about what this means in the context of classroom celebrations. For example, we are recommending that classrooms not celebrate individual birthdays with food – otherwise, some students wind up with 30 days of “treats” because every student brings cupcakes. Some healthy food ideas for celebrations at school include fresh cut veggies, such as carrots, broccoli, snap peas; and fresh cut fruit, including apples, oranges and blueberries.

We recommend creative approaches to celebrate children. For example, one teacher hosts a birthday “car wash” where the birthday child is showered with compliments from their classmates. Books are another great way to celebrate. Sometimes a family will bring in a book to read out loud and then donate to the school library with a placard to recognize the student’s birthday.

We are working with our nurses, the Whatcom County Health Department and an advisory group of community members, teachers and other staff members to build more suggestions like this that allow us to celebrate important milestones, holidays and relationships and honor our responsibility to make healthy choices for ourselves and our children.

Does this vary from school to school, teacher to teacher, classroom to classroom?

Across our schools, there may be some variation in the implementation our new guidelines; we are continuing to work with staff and families to follow the best practices mentioned above.

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