With the start of the new school year, Lighthouse Elementary School in Jupiter is trying out not allowing students to eat snacks in their classrooms prior to lunchtime.
“I was in shock," said Amber Champlin, whose daughter attends second grade at Lighthouse Elementary. "I think it’s unbelievable and I think it’s a shame that elementary school kids can’t have a snack.”
Julie Houston Trieste, media relations specialist for the School District of Palm Beach County’s Office of Communications, said snacks created a time challenge in the classrooms because parents would send foods such as fruit or liquids that would take longer to eat and make a mess, so snack time turned into a 20- to 30-minute event every day.
“His lunch isn’t until noon and it’s a long time for him to go without a snack," said Christy Sanderson, whose son just started kindergarten.
Houston Trieste said children would eat a snack then throw away their lunches.
She said the school is trying out the new policy this first week of school to see how it will work.
“I just wanted to sort of wait and see how everything pans out and if for some reason it definitely doesn't work for him, I was going to do what I could," said Tove Stakkestad, who has a son in kindergarten. "Reach out to the school. Get a doctor's note. Something like that.”
She also said concerns over food allergies prompted the change.
"I just wanted to send a quick note to thank you for the 'no food' policy," a parent wrote in an email to the principal. "As a mother with a child with allergies, I really appreciate this! Thank you, thank you!!!"
Lighthouse Elementary is encouraging parents to feed their children a nutritious breakfast or have their children eat breakfast for free at school, so children are sustained until lunchtime.
“Some kids can go several hours without snacking, but some kids are very used to having something or some caloric intake every few hours," said Dr. David Soria, NewsChannel 5 medical expert. "So if you just immediately take that away, it’s not necessarily a nutritional issue, but it can certainly be a focus issue.”
Houston Trieste said Principal Julie Hopkins has more than 200 emergency snacks in her office that are available if children need them.
"I think it's more important to make sure that they can maintain discipline and that they can have an effective learning environment," said Jeff Cunjak, whose son is in second grade. "If that means he's going to be a little bit hungry then that's what it means."
Hopkins said nobody has needed the emergency snacks so far and she’s not going to let anybody go hungry.
Teachers communicated to parents during an open house regarding not having snacks in the classroom.
"A lot of their behavior depends if they're hungry or not and I feel like every year they take more away from the kids and I feel like it's going to create bigger problems than anything so I hope they change it," Champlin said.
The principal communicated with the parents about this change and has also spoken one-on-one with those who have concerns, Houston Trieste said.
Below is a response that Hopkins has sent to parents regarding the policy:
"We are trying "no snack" for a week to see how it works out. All students are encouraged to have breakfast before they come to school or get a free breakfast provided in the cafeteria beginning at 7:30 a.m. We will be monitoring the students that have a later lunch and the teachers will have a snack in the classroom if they are hungry. Unfortunately, many students do not eat their lunch or throw away most of it - we are trying to discourage this unhealthy habit. There is limited time in the day with the state directives that take away from academic instruction and we are trying to use every minute wisely."