Tuesday, May 22 , 2018, 3:16 pm | Mostly Cloudy 67º


Santa Barbara School District Cracks Down on Junk Food with New Policy for On-Campus Stores

Nancy Weiss is taking away the Pop-Tarts and the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.

As food services director for the Santa Barbara Unified School District, Weiss has strong opinions about such “crap.” School stores run by PTAs and student programs have been selling snacks and drinks for years, but a new district policy puts on-campus food sales under the purview of the food services department.

The Santa Barbara school board adopted a new food sale policy Tuesday night and deleted “obsolete” former policies regarding competitive (non-district-run) food sales.

New federal regulations require districts in the National School Lunch and/or Breakfast Program to only sell food on campus that complies with nutrition standards, according to the district.

The food services department is now supplying the food for some on-campus stores that were formerly run independently. This new policy doesn’t allow candy sales for fundraisers either, and food-related fundraisers now have to be approved by the food services department.

There was a loophole in Santa Barbara Unified policy that allowed Regional Occupational Programs and other organizations to sell items that weren’t on the nutritional compliance list, such as 22-ounce Gatorades and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, but now those stores have to abide by the same rules as the National School Lunch Program, Weiss said.

“Now we enjoy the parent volunteer force and basically we are supplying the food that’s served to kids in student stores, so there’s no competitive problem and the nutritional guidelines are being met,” Weiss said. “It also leveled the playing field with students who did have money and those who didn’t.”

The Santa Barbara High School Multimedia Arts & Design Academy’s store is one of the many impacted by the new rules. Parent volunteers work in the store, which used to sell snacks between class periods and lunches — purchased from the district — to students.

A state audit determined that was a competitive food sale and now all the food is supplied by the district, while parents still work the store.

Selling food was a major fundraiser for the MAD Academy — it usually brings in $15,000 a year from the store — so they fought the changes at first, MAD Academy director Dan Williams said.

The district recognized the importance of the fundraiser and agreed to make a donation to the MAD Academy at the end of the year to help with the lost revenue, Williams said. It will also be a thank you for providing the parent volunteers and increasing the number of students the food services department is serving, he said.

“I think that in the long run it’ll work out in everyone’s favor, but there are definitely some growing pains figuring it out,” Williams said.

All the students at Santa Barbara High School qualify for a free breakfast or free nutritional snack, so the store is another point of sale for the program, he said.  

“Now we actually get more healthy food into the hands of the kids, which is great,” he said.

Most of the store’s snacks were given the OK by Weiss, though she nixed a few items, including some that meet state nutritional standards but the district isn’t allowing — like Pop-Tarts.

There was some pushback with the changes and “the kids were pissed off” when Pop-Tarts were taken out of the stores, Weiss said. “They’re theoretically compliant because they only have 10 grams of sugar but the rest of ingredients are unpronounceable, so I don’t support Pop-Tarts in our district.”

Weiss’s goal is to get the most wholesome food available and present it to students in an appealing way, making tasty dishes that are whole grain, low in sugar, low in fat and low in sodium.

The district’s 10 kitchens provide about 7,500 meals a day from scratch and Weiss called the new policy a “big and serious wake-up call.”

“We’re killing our kids with the kind of food they’re able to procure outside the school day,” she said.

Noozhawk news editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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