Danville schools push for pre-packaged snacks as healthier alternative

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DANVILLE--One Central Illinois school district is cracking down on what kinds of treats kids can bring to school from home, and how they offer them in school as well.

Over the past few years, Danville schools have done away with the fatty foods in favor of offering healthier options to their students.

"The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act spells out how we can feed our students," said Director of Food Services, Greg Lazzell.

So Lazzell set out to update the district's three-year-old wellness policy. He and a committee of teachers and parents recognized that the meals being served in the cafeteria  already complied with USDA guidelines, but what the kids are bringing from home to share are not.

"Classroom treats, we do not have a written policy that says what you can and cannot bring in," said Lazzell. "However, next year we will. As part of this policy , classroom treats must be pre-packaged, pre-bought items."

Another change to the policy involves what can be sold as a fundraiser food. Since schools can't sell goodies under the guidelines, the state gives the district a certain number of "exempt days," during which they can have all the bake sales and pizza parties they want.  

"Every Tuesday is the exempt fundraising day," said Lazzell. "So you can sell anything that doesn't meet. Next year, that goes to 18 days that they can do that. So the following year it goes to nine."

Lazzell says there is also an underlying push to move away from food-related fundraisers altogether, and instead, replace them with events that promote physical activity, something that already is being put into play at Northeast Elementary School.

"I think they have over 1200 people signed up to do their 5-K," said Lazzell. "So they've done a good job of getting away from the food fundraisers, getting families out to be physically active and have fun."

The school board is not expected to take action on these proposed policy changes until later this month. If they ultimately approve, the updates will go into effect for the 2015-16 school year.
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