by Gerri Faivre, Westbury Friends School
The spring of 2009 brought Kate Finnick, a member of the Westbury Monthly Meeting onto the Board of Managers of Westbury Friends School. Kate and I met to discuss the many ways in which Board members help the school and through that conversation I became aware of her Wellness Education Practice. I invited Kate to speak to the faculty on a regular basis and she began this at the August 31st faculty meeting.
One of the goals of Westbury Friends School for the 2009-10 academic year is to seriously work toward becoming a Healthy Choice School. This was indeed a challenge for it meant that many of our habits as a school community would need to change as we moved toward a healthier life style for all, based on the choices we make with respect to food and exercise. Kate was happy to help guide us in that direction and began writing a monthly column entitled Westbury Wellness, based on healthy tips that we might all apply to our lives and those of our children. Kate also offered to do a series on wellness for our parent body sponsored by the Parents Teachers Council (PTC). Kate made a big hit with the faculty at the August meeting by bringing a batch of home baked brownies for their enjoyment…they were absolutely delicious and free of sugar and fat.
The first of many articles coming from Kate over the course of the 2009-10 school year kicked off in September. Sharing her knowledge and expertise paved the way for the school to work toward a clearly defined Healthy Choice Policy, which was implemented in the fall of 2010 and work toward achieving the goal of Westbury Friends becoming a Healthy Choice School.
After a full year of slowly and softly approaching a Healthy Choice initiative, the faculty met at the end of June 2010 to discuss the next step. They fully supported the idea of a Healthy Choice Policy and action to be proposed and hopefully supported by the Board at the June 23rd meeting. With juvenile diabetes and obesity, heart problems and other health related issues taking on national proportions WFS faculty felt we needed to do our part. This included healthier hot lunches on Friday as offered by the PTC and party fare from the PTC and families. We felt that we could determine from a school perspective what happens on our campus between 7a.m. and 6 p.m., with hopes that the healthy choice idea would roll over into the home hours, but clearly could not determine what happens in homes or off-campus events. The formal proposal/policy was developed by early July and reviewed by members of the faculty, administration, Board and PTC. Once feedback came in from these members of the WFS community, the proposal was shared with the Board and the entire faculty before it was mailed home to the parent community in August. Faculty specifically requested that fried foods be eliminated from Friday hot lunch, pasta be wheat pasta, no fast food or Lunchables allowed to be sent in as lunch for students and no butter sandwiches.
The following information was mailed home to parents in August 2010:
WESTBURY FRIENDS SCHOOL HEALTHY CHOICE PARENT NEWSLETTER
One of the most important skills we can teach our children is to be an informed decision maker in all aspects of their lives. Developing healthy eating habits based on a clear awareness of nutrition is most effective when addressed at a young age with consistency at school and home.
Throughout the 2009-10 academic year, the WFS faculty and staff spent time reading, discussing, researching and educating themselves about healthy eating choices. A Westbury Wellness newsletter was developed by Board member Kate Finnick and posted on our website each month to share thoughts and ideas about healthy choices and how easily they can become part of the daily routine at home and at school. After a year of study on the topic and with collaborative support and agreement of the staff, the faculty, the school nurse, the Board, in addition to conversations with Evan Boris, our new PTC Clerk, Westbury Friends School (WFS) is happy to announce the implementation of a WFS Healthy Choice Policy beginning in September 2010 for any time food is consumed at school (daily lunch, Friday Hot Lunch, all snack times, celebrations in class and student events at school). This is a continuation of our overall efforts to teach our students the skills to live their best lives.
More and more we are learning about the importance of good nutrition, and luckily, at WFS we have a very health-conscious faculty and parent body. The results of poor food choices have very serious consequences for our children as seen by the increase in childhood obesity, diabetes and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, to give a few examples. In a recent report published in June 2010 on Nutrition Guidelines by the USDA it calls for a shift to a diet that focuses on nutrient rich rather than energy-dense foods. This means eating more vegetables, fruits, whole grains and low-fat milk and dairy products while cutting back on refined grains, added sugars and solid fats, particularly those found in sugar-sweetened beverages and desserts.
With the clear understanding that although we cannot determine what you as a family choose to do at home with respect to healthy choices, we can decide what we as a school will support, allow and encourage during the time when food is available or consumed on campus. With that in mind and a sense of true responsibility to the knowledge we have gained over the past years with respect to healthy choices we happily share our Healthy Choice Policy with you for implementation as soon as school begins. The Friday Hot Lunch program overseen by the PTC will also adhere to this policy in determining the ‘kid friendly’ choices made available to the students. The faculty will continue to pay full attention to this policy when they incorporate cooking into the curriculum.
The faculty is planning many grade level and all school curriculum activities for the beginning of school and throughout the 2010-11 academic year to help our students understand and abide by the new policy while increasing their awareness, no matter the age, of how easy making Healthy Choices can be. We are excited about the possibilities that this affords us for the sound educational practice, which surrounds nutrition and healthy life styles.
We thank you, in advance, for your support in implementing this Healthy Choice Policy for WFS. Please feel free to contact the school with any questions.
The Faculty and Administration of Westbury Friends School
WFS Healthy Choice Policy
Due to severe allergies, one food that consistently creates a problem for children is peanuts (and peanut products). WFS is a nut-free school and does not allow peanut butter in any form, either when eating on campus or on a field trip. Please check ingredient labels for peanuts/peanut oil products before packing your child’s lunch.
Lunch and Snacks: Please do not send in high sugar/salt/processed foods. Examples would include fruit roll-ups, snack cakes (Hostess, Drakes), frosted cupcakes, Doritos, Fritos, LUNCHABLES etc., and of course candy and chocolate. These WILL NOT be served or permitted to be consumed during lunch or snack time and will be sent home with a reminder of our policy.
Pure juice, water and milk are indeed the best drinks to consume throughout the day. Caution: please check the labels, as many of the commercial juices have a large sugar content. Many brands do not add sugar. Look for the juice boxes that clearly state 100% Juice, for example, Juicy Juice, Fruitables, V-8 Fusion. A specific form of Capri Sun is clearly labeled 100% Juice. Hi-C and Kool-Aid are basically chemicals and will not be served. Always be mindful of food coloring in anything you serve/eat.
Birthdays: These happy occasions will also be celebrated with adherence to our healthy choices policy. Families may choose to send in a fruit platter or a healthy treat. Frosted cakes, cupcakes or doughnuts will not be served. Homemade versions of cookies/brownies that do not use refined sugar, but rather alternative natural sweeteners in smaller amounts are a wonderful option. Low fat ice cream will be allowed on such an occasion.
We ask that you join with us in helping the children learn about making healthy choices in the foods they eat. Whether it is your child’s lunch or snack in a lunch box or providing a snack for your child’s class to share, we respectfully ask that you refer to the list below for some suggestions of healthy choices. We want to avoid putting any child in the uncomfortable position of not being permitted to eat what he/she has brought in.
- Air popped popcorn flavored with seasonings
- Fresh fruit cups (those packaged in pure juice are available)
- Raw vegetables and fruits
- Cheese and crackers ( low fat-low salt content)
- Pretzels (whole grain is best)
- Raisins, cranberries, Craisins
- Animal crackers, graham crackers, cheddar cheese goldfish ( but not the multi colored ones)
- Unsweetened applesauce (also available in small cup size)
- Homemade versions of cookies/brownies that do not use refined sugar, but rather alternative natural sweeteners in smaller amounts.
This is indeed a challenge for it means that many of our habits as a school community will change as we move toward a healthier life style for all based on the choices we make with respect to food. But it can be done as there is nothing more constant than change, and challenge within that change. WFS has never shied away from a challenge! Together, we are finding our way along a newly developing road map as we work to create a solid food education program and making your children, our students excited and knowledgeable about healthful eating.
One parent expressed true and open displeasure with this policy to the Head of School. One other parent shared their concern with a faculty member as to how she was going to implement this at home as her child is a very picky eater. Many parents sent thanks to the school for taking this on and helping them implement it at home by ‘forcing them in a positive way’ to truly think about what was going into their bodies and that of their children.
The faculty worried about how to handle lunches that came in that were clearly not healthy. A short statement, ready to be put into lunch boxes encouraging families to work with us on this initiative was developed and to date only a few have had to go home.
With cooking part of the curriculum at all grade levels, the faculty has worked hard to investigate and use healthy alternatives in the recipes.
The PTC made a conscientious effort to change the Friday Hot Lunch program to include whole wheat pizza and pasta and grilled chicken instead of fried, and to introduce home-made soup and salad, which has become the all time favorite choice of the students.
The Welcome Back Picnic in September offered low fat burgers, along with turkey and veggie burgers, water, salad, fruit and a variety of healthy choices provided by the parents. Apple and Eve provided Fruitables for drinks and 16 Handles, a new yogurt place nearby donated 3 large yogurt cakes emblazoned with WFS…totally delicious!
As the weeks move on we continue to notice a major change in the contents of the lunch boxes. The school continues to provide tips and recipes gathered from parents and faculty to support the Healthy Choice Policy, along with articles from many health-conscious journals and other sources. Our neighbor, Whole Foods, has been very generous in donating many treats for school events since August and we, in turn, shop there for our supplies.
Faculty members have included student surveys and comments in their bimonthly newsletters and continue to educate the children in many ways about daily healthy choices. The Health Class for our older students has emphasized the importance and empowerment of reading labels and knowing what all those hard-to-pronounce words on the boxes and bags really mean.
The Halloween Party presented a challenge, but true to form, WFS made enormous headway by redirecting the focus from food and candy to activities and fun…and with a historical cemetery on our property, the night walk with light sticks hunting for glow-in-the-dark spiders took center stage!
Planting our own herbs and vegetables this fall added to the education of healthy choices as students have continuously snacked on foods from the garden and experimented with new ideas and ingredients almost daily.
A workshop series for parents on Healthy Living and Environmental Factors was put into play from October through May, and although not heavily attended, those who have come have written rave reviews about the offerings and knowledge gained.
We are not there yet, as every now and then we hear of some degree of ongoing opposition to the effort, but we believe we can live with that for we are doing no harm, only working along with the rest of the country to educate our community in a way that will reap long term benefits for all. The challenge continues, but it is worth it as each day we know, as a school, we are not being remiss in our responsibilities to all that happens on our campus…and helping our students to reap the benefits of a healthy lifestyle for life.