What Can I Serve?

Michelle Obama, the USDA and Classroom Parties

You may have noticed Wellness Committees popping up in schools everywhere recently. You are not imagining it. New Federal guidelines from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) require all school districts that participate in federal lunch or breakfast programs establish nutritional standards for all food and drink served or offered to children at school.

This includes classroom parties and food provided by parent volunteers as well as vending machine offerings and snacks provided by teachers. In short…everything a child doesn’t bring from home for his/her sole consumption.

If you’ve been tasked with hosting a class party this holiday season, you head is probably spinning about now. How in the world do you know what is safe to bring and what is off limits? How do you handle things if a parent brings ‘contraband’? You might even be wondering what all the fuss is about. Well, let’s see if we can break it down and simplify your task.

So, why all the fuss?

There’s a lot of information on the official White House website. In short, in 2010, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act tasked the USDA with setting guidelines for school wellness policies to ensure that publicly funded schools are providing healthy food to children. In 2014 the USDA, in partnership with then First Lady Michelle Obama, announced guidelines for schools that were to go into effect in the 2017/18 school year.

So, here we are, a few years later trying to sort out what we can and cannot bring for a classroom party.

Your first stop should be a conversation with the teacher

Talk to your child’s teacher and find out what s/he has in mind for the party.

  • Should you even have snacks or drinks?
  • Is this just a party or should it correspond with any learning objectives the kids are tackling?
  • What time frame has been set aside for the party?
  • Are there any other considerations to take into account?

Once you have a good idea of what the teacher’s idea of a successful party is, you need a clear idea of what foods and drinks are allowable.

Next stop, the school wellness policy.

Ask your child’s teacher or the principal for a copy of the school or district’s wellness policy. This document should detail out the types of foods allowed at a school party. You’ll want to remain in the good graces of your child’s teacher and the principal by adhering to this policy as best as you can.

Finally, you can begin your party planning.

There are a million ways to have a successful party and they don’t all require an intimate relationship with a glue gun. Stay tuned for a post dedicated to easy classroom party planning.

In the meantime, did you know that a Mitsy subscription comes with an easy-to-use volunteer scheduling tool? Check out the video demo on how to create signups right on your website. Mitsy keeps all your signup opportunities in one place making it easier than ever for parents to volunteer.