Rock Hill school Valentine’s Day parties can again feature the staples of the holiday - cupcakes and other sweets.
On June 26, the Rock Hill school board approved an updated wellness policy that excludes Valentine’s Day parties from district standards that apply to foods made available, but not sold, during the school day on campuses. Valentine’s Day is the only district-sanctioned school party.
“I am ecstatic to see that Valentine’s parties are excluded and will remain status quo,” board member Helena Miller said.
The Rock Hill school district sent elementary schools a letter on Jan. 26 detailing food guidelines for celebrations, said Mychal Frost, director of communications for Rock Hill schools. The letter sparked complaints from parents concerned about the restrictions and how close it was sent ahead of the Valentine’s Day parties.
“As a board, we need to be careful of what we dictate as a district on an individual school level,” Miller said at the time. “I think we can make special considerations and let the principals make their own decisions on that specific day. It’s one day.”
The letter included a 12-item list of approved foods such as fresh fruit, vegetables and dip, chips, mini cupcakes and cheese sticks. The list said all items were required to be store-bought with a nutritional label and that students may not bring anything beyond what’s on the list, according to the letter.
Rock Hill schools are members of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program, an initiative aimed at making schools healthier, the letter states.
“It created quite the firestorm at several elementary schools,” Frost said at the time. “The list was never intended to be a menu. It was intended to be suggested items that we knew to be allergen-free.”
In August, the district wellness committee will survey school staff, school level administration, parents, students and others to come up with a standardized list of acceptable snacks and drinks for elementary schools, Sadie Kirell, lead nurse for Rock Hill schools, told the board at the June 12 work session. This list will not apply to Valentine’s Day parties.
With that in mind, the board approved the wellness policy.
“I am satisfied that there will be committees from each school and that parents, teachers and other stakeholders will have an opportunity to give their input in what this list will be,” Miller said. “I do think we need to be mindful of the amount of snacks going into our schools as treats, but I really don't believe it is the district’s or the board’s job to dictate what that is.”
I do think we need to be mindful of the amount of snacks going into our schools as treats, but I really don't believe it is the district’s or the board’s job to dictate what that is.
Helena Miller, Rock Hill school board member
However, not everyone agreed that the policy fulfils the goals of the district. Jim Vining, board chair, voted against the wellness policy.
Vining said the policy has too much information and hasn’t translated into day to day school activities.
“We are in the education business and for us to have a significant district wellness policy, it needs to be embedded into the curriculum,” he said.
Vining said he has not seen the wellness policy’s impact within the district. For example, the district still allows vending machines but fills them with healthier options.
That, he said, has led to some students bringing their own items, such as a two-liter soda, which are sometimes worse than what was available before. Vining said fewer students eat the school lunch now as well, though he could not tie the trend directly to new standards.
Vining said the district could do a better job at involving the students in snack selection for parties and other areas of wellness.
“The purpose of the policy is to improve wellness, and I would say it doesn’t have very much impact in that regard,” he said.
However, the policy includes federal guidelines that are not optional, Miller said.
“This has been a long process, and I think what we saw passed tonight was a nice compromise,” she said.
The school board also approved an increase to adult meal prices. Breakfast for 2017-’18 will cost $2.25 and lunch will be $4 for adults.