- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 8, 2017

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - An Omaha school district has a new food and wellness policy designed to encourage healthier snacks and minimize the risk for children with dangerous food allergies.

School board members in the Westside School District approved the policy last month, acknowledging it would be a big shift for parents used to celebrating birthdays by passing out sweets. Any food distributed for birthdays or class events must now be commercially packaged and prepared, the Omaha World-Herald reported .

Under the policy, snacks in elementary schools must adhere to a list of district-approved treats, including fruit, SkinnyPop popcorn, Goldfish and Oreos. The list’s items exclude peanuts or tree nuts, and provide for gluten-free options.

Potlucks, bake sales and sales of homemade food at concession stands will also be banned. That includes pasta dinners cooked by a team’s parents on school premises.

“It’s a first step, it’s a step in the process to say, ‘Let’s get away from 6 inches of purple frosting and monster cookies,’” said district lawyer Alison McGinn. “We’re all for celebrations, but we’re also big believers in wellness.”

The district is following in the steps of other school districts in the area that have long discouraged or banned the distribution of foods that aren’t store-bought.

“The biggest rationale is we have students who have life-threatening allergies,” said Annette Eyman, spokeswoman for the Papillion-La Vista School District.

School officials said the increase in food allergies and gluten sensitivities make homemade foods without a list of ingredients a threat to some students.

“We want our kids to love school. We want our learners to want to make friends and have those celebrations and moments,” Westside spokeswoman Brandi Petersen said. “And I think that with this new plan they can still do that.”


Information from: Omaha World-Herald, https://www.omaha.com

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