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CCSD looks at updating wellness policy

A new wellness policy could be in place for Creston Community School District before the end of the school year.

Nora Sprague, nutrition director, presented the CCSD Board of Education with a new nutrition component of the wellness policy during Monday’s regular board meeting.

“It’s been brought to our attention for awhile now that we need to update our wellness policy,” Sprague said. “I took it upon myself, at least for nutrition. I’ve made some really good contacts through Cornell University. We have a wellness policy, but it needs to be updated.”

CCSD uses evidence-based strategies from The Smarter Lunchrooms Movement to encourage selection and consumption of healthy food choices in the cafeteria. Sprague’s proposal states all schools participating in the National School Lunch Program will utilize at least five of the following Smarter Lunchroom strategies:

• Fruit is offered at two locations on all service lines, one of which is right before the point of sale

• Sliced or cut fruit is offered

• A variety of mixed whole fruits are displayed in attractive bowls or baskets instead of stainless steel pans

• At least two kinds of vegetables are offered

• Vegetables are incorporated into the main dish at least monthly

• White milk is offered in all beverage coolers

• Alternative entree options are highlighted on posters or signs within all service and dining areas

• Students offered a taste test of a new entree at least once a year

• Students provide feedback to inform menu development

• Students, teachers or administrators share the daily menu in announcements

“What you have in front of you is a nutrition wellness policy,” Sprague said. “This doesn’t have anything to do with exercise. This just has to do with what we are offering our children.”

“It’s not meant to be offensive at all, but trying a new entree just once a year?” asked Sharon Snodgrass, CCSD board member. “Or maybe at the different sports, with the little kids maybe a different something, the middle school kids a different something. I could see just different levels of kids and different habits.”

Sprague noted her proposal is just a list and that at least five of those list items would be put into place.

“We can do more than one entree,” Sprague said. “The older they get, the more educated palette they have. Your little ones, we want them to eat. So, we’ve got to give them something they’re going to eat.”

No action was taken at Monday’s meeting on the wellness policy proposal, while Business Manager Billie Jo Greene finds the appropriate place for the policy to go into the handbook.

Negative balances

Sprague also briefed the board on a new state-mandated policy regarding negative balances in the food service programs.

According to the policy, which must go into effect prior to July 1, family accounts will be allowed charges of up to negative $20. No charges will be allowed and students in the family account will be offered a peanut butter or cheese sandwich and milk for a charge of $1. CCSD will not take away a student’s tray because of a negative balance, but will remove any prepackaged item that may be reused and be charged a full lunch.

Students must have available funds in the family account to purchase extra items such as a second lunch or a la carte items. Students who are free and reduced status will never be denied a meal, but still must have funds available for extra items.

Any accounts of negative $90 over 30 days will be considered delinquent. All attempts will be made for notification and any partial payment will be considered before further action is taken in collecting a debt.

“This is being mandated by the state that we need to have this policy put in place by July 1,” Sprague said. “This is the standard operating procedure for negative meal accounts. The reason this is being mandated is because every school district is having the same problem collecting.

“I’ll guarantee you we’re not going to let any kid go hungry. We’re just not. But, I think parents and guardians need to be aware of the situation.”

During the November school board meeting, Greene reported the district’s outstanding debt in the food service program was approximately $7,000. That was an increase from approximately $6,000 at the conclusion of the 2015-16 school year.

At the time, several accounts had negative balances in excess of $100.

The board entertained the option of using a collection agency to help collect those debts. But, the collection agency would keep 33 percent of all money collected.

Monday, Greene said under Iowa Code, the district does not have the capability of writing off the 33 percent, so the district has elected not to use a collection agency.

“There’s a common misunderstanding about the school lunch program,” CCSD Superintendent Steve McDermott said. “That is, originally it was intended as lunch, a midday lunch – not the largest meal of the child’s day. However, for a lot of kids, that is the largest and best, most nutritious meal they have all day.”

Further action on both the wellness policy and the food service negative account policy are expected at the May board meeting.

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