Healthy food certification out of reach in Wilton

Each year, the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) requires Connecticut school districts to sign the healthy food certification statement, certifying whether “all food items made available for sale to students will meet the Connecticut Nutrition Standards.”

“They poke around every year and encourage us [to participate], but there are no ... penalties for not doing it,” Financial Director Ken Post told the Board of Education during its June 12 meeting.

The Connecticut Nutrition Standards apply to foods offered for sale to students separately from a reimbursable school lunch or breakfast in public schools. The standards focus on:

  • Limiting fat, saturated fat, trans fat, sodium and sugars;

  • Moderating portion sizes;

  • Promoting increased intake of nutrient-dense foods.

According to CSDE, 12 of 33 school districts in Fairfield County participated in the healthy food certification program during the 2013-14 school year.

Food items offered at Miller-Driscoll, Cider Mill and Middlebrook are in compliance with the state’s nutrition standards. But food items sold in the school store at Wilton High School and bake sales held in school do not comply.

Because of the high school, Mr. Post said, the Wilton school district currently does not participate in the certification program.

If the Wilton school district decided to sign the statement, said Mr. Post, student bake sales, fund-raising activities on school premises that involve food, and certain foods sold in the school store and in vending machines would no longer be permitted.

According to the CSDE, foods that do not meet the Connecticut Nutrition Standards may be sold to students on school premises if the local board of education votes to allow exemptions and the following conditions are met:

  • The sale is in connection with an event occurring after the end of the regular school day or on the weekend;

  • The sale is at the location of the event;

  • The foods are not sold from a vending machine or school store.

The Connecticut Nutrition Standards groups foods into six categories: snacks, entrees, non-entree combination foods, fruits and vegetables, cooked grains, and soups.

Under the Connecticut Nutrition Standards, a food item must meet all of the nutritional standards for the specific food category to which it belongs, and meet at least one of three general standards in order to be sold to students:

  • Whole grain-rich foods;

  • Fruits, vegetables, dairy or protein foods must be the first ingredient;

  • Combination food that contains at least one-quarter cup of fruit and/or vegetable.

School districts that participate in the National School Lunch Program and certify compliance with the Connecticut Nutrition Standards each year receive reimbursement, said Mr. Post.

“I don’t remember the exact amount of dollars that they would give us for the food program, but I believe it’s less than $10,000,” Mr. Post told the board.

He said “there are a number of schools in the area that are considering coming off the school lunch program, if they aren’t by now, because it just restricts so much of what we can serve.”

Board member Chris Stroup said he would like to understand “what the delta is between what we serve and what would be considered appropriate under the standards.”

At the board’s request, Mr. Post agreed to provide further information regarding the types of food that do not meet the Connecticut Nutrition Standards.