The Evanston District 65 School Board Monday night approved a policy that bans serving homemade treats at school events, including birthday parties, and forbids teachers from using food as incentives or punishments.
The district Wellness Council revised the existing wellness policy to “reduce the risk of food borne illness and create healthy snack options” for students, said Stephanie Abudayeh, district music teacher and co-chair of the Wellness Council.
Abudayeh said that the new food policy guidelines are consistent with regulations by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services that “prohibit foods and beverages that have been prepared from home, due to the potential risk they pose.”
The guidelines specify that all food and beverages provided to students during the school day or at school-sponsored events must be commercially prepared, ready to eat, wrapped in the original packaging and with a list of ingredients provided. Fruits or vegetables must be whole and intact, washed at a designated prep sink or commercially prepared.
These guidelines do not apply to lunches and other food prepared for an individual student by a parent or guardian.
The policy includes a list of healthful food and beverage options for school functions, suggestions for non-food celebrations in school and non-food fundraising ideas
Anya Tanyavutti, board vice president, said that the policy could “come off as colonial,” with the school defining what wellness is. “If the policy implies that food eaten at home is not acceptable at school, how does that get internalized,” she said.
Board member Lindsay Cohen asked how to avoid “food shaming,” looking for ways to respect food culture while moving to wellness.
“Controlling access to nutrition has been used as a lever in racist systems,” Tanyavutti said and asked how teachers would talk about this policy to make sure it was not perceived that way.
Board President Sunith Kartha asked the Wellness Council to include an explanatory introduction addressing the board’s concerns.
The policy was approved by the board in a 7-0 vote.