"Food Free in Three"

District 97 is committed to creating a learning environment that preserves, protects and supports the health and safety of all our students. It is with this important goal in mind that we have launched a program called “Food Free in Three” in all 10 of our schools. Below is additional information about the program, including the timeline for its implementation.

What is “Food Free in Three?”
“Food Free in Three” is a program that calls for the elimination of all food from school celebrations over a three-year period that began in the fall of 2018.

What are the goals of the program?
The following are the three main goals associated with the “Food Free in Three” program:

  • Help ensure the safety and inclusivity of all students, regardless of food-allergy status, religious or cultural practice, or medical condition
  • Provide students with lifelong healthy habits that reduce the association between celebrations and food consumption
  • Use activities, games, etc. to meaningfully connect students with each other and with staff during times of celebration

What led to the creation of the program? 
There were several factors that led to the creation of “Food Free in Three.” First, approximately 10 to 15 percent of the children in our district have a food allergy. While the most common allergen among our students is nuts of any kind, others include, but are not limited to, milk, soy, wheat and eggs. In addition, any food-allergic reaction has the potential to turn into a life-threatening situation within minutes.

Second, the program aligns with and will help support the successful implementation of our Food Allergy Management Program, which was created with the help of families and staff and can be accessed by visiting http://bit.ly/2x2J6WA.

Who created the program? 
We created the program with the help of parents/guardians and staff who serve on our Food Allergy Committee and Wellness Council.

What impact will “Food Free in Three” have on the district’s breakfast and lunch programs, or the snacks that students bring to school? 
The “Food Free in Three” program will only apply to school celebrations. It will not affect or impact the district’s breakfast and lunch programs, or the snacks that students bring to school. With that said, students’ snacks and the district’s food service program will still need to comply with federal nutrition guidelines and the district’s Food Allergy Management Program.

Are there resources or recommended activities we can use to organize food-free celebrations?
We will be compiling a list of resources that schools can utilize to organize food-free celebrations. We will share this list with our families and staff as soon as it is available. In the meantime, Action for Healthy Kids, which is an organization that is seeking to “fight childhood obesity, undernourishment and physical inactivity by helping schools become healthier places so kids can live healthier lives,” created a “Healthy Party Guide” that you can access by visiting http://bit.ly/2I55C7K.

What is the timeline for implementing the program?
We will be implementing the program via a phased-in approach over a three-year period that began in the fall of 2018. We believe this will give our school communities both the time and space they need to plan for and adjust to food-free celebrations. As part of this phased-in approach, we have identified categories of foods from the Snack Safely list (https://snacksafely.com/safe-snack-guide/) that can be incorporated into celebrations during the first two years of the three-year period.

Below is our timeline for implementation and the list of foods that correspond with each phase.

  • Phase One: Celebrations that are held during the 2018-19 school year can include food from the following eight categories: fresh fruit*, fruit juice, fresh vegetables*, dried fruit, yogurt without granola topping, lean meats, and packaged popcorn and pretzels that are nut safe.
  • Phase Two: Celebrations that are held during the 2019-20 school year can include food from the following four categories: fresh fruit*, fresh vegetables*, and packaged popcorn and pretzels that are nut safe.
  • Phase Three: No food will be served during celebrations that are held during the 2020-21 school year.

* Please note that any fresh fruit or fresh vegetables brought into our schools must either be pre-washed/pre-packaged from a store or prepared, cut, etc. after they arrive in our buildings. This will help minimize potential cross-contamination.

What is the timeline for implementing the program?
We will create a page on our website where we will post information about the “Food Free in Three” program and share updates throughout its implementation.