On Thursday, the state Board of Education approved Policy 4321.1 Standards for School Nutrition as a replacement for a previous nutrition policy dating back to 2008.
In general, it aligns West Virginia’s child nutrition standards with federal child nutrition standards.
In many ways, the policy approval is a formality.
“Our schools have been operating under the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act since 2012,” Michele Blatt, assistant state superintendent of schools, told members of the state BOE before the vote.
“The Act passed in 2010 and we started transitioning our schools to meet those federal requirements and had all our schools functioning by 2012, but our policy had not caught up with what was occurring in our schools.”
In part, the policy addresses food brought into schools for classroom celebrations or other events.
Under revisions that followed a public comment period, baked goods from home are again allowed in schools if in accordance with local wellness policies which are developed by county school officials.
“When we talk about our current local wellness policy, these are policies that are required by the federal government and all of our districts currently have a local wellness policy,” explained Blatt.
“In that policy, they have to promote student wellness, talk about how they’re going to prevent and reduce childhood obesity and provide assurances that school meals and all other food and beverages sold or provided will meet the applicable federal and state standards.”
Miller Hall, a BOE member, said local control was key. “I think that’s the way it needs to be,” he said.
A portion of the policy revisions prohibit counties from punishing students for unpaid or outstanding school meal debt with denial of meals, blocked access to extracurricular activities, graduation participation bans, refusal of transcript requests or other measures.
“All communication addressing financial matters should be directed to parents/guardians,” the policy stated. “Food and beverages shall not be offered as a reward and/or used as a means of punishment or disciplinary action for any student during the school day.”
More than 400 comments from 180 individuals, a larger number than usual according to state Department of Education officials, were submitted to the DOE prior to the close of the public comment period.
Going forward, Dr. Steve Paine, state superintendent of schools, said the effects of the policy would be monitored. “If it doesn’t work, we come right back and we revisit the policy,” Paine said Thursday.