Are students allowed to prepare and eat foods in the classroom?

Meal Preparation In the Classroom

Are students allowed to prepare and eat foods in the classroom?
 
Students may prepare and eat foods in the classroom as part of a learning activity associated with an approved curriculum project.  Use of blenders in classroom food preparation is forbidden.  All appliances, dishes and utensils used for any classroom cooking must be fully sanitized in the cafeteria and run through an UL-approved dishwasher or washed in a cafeteria sanitizing sink.
 
Teachers and students should be aware of and follow safe foodhandling practices. If needed, the Child Nutrition program could serve as a resource for information about best practices when handling a variety of foods.
 
Meals provided by the school cafeteria kitchen should not be further processed (i.e., chopped, blended, pureed, etc.) in the classroom because this area is not permitted for food preparation. Most establishments or operations where food is prepared or served at wholesale or retail for pay must have a valid food handling permit. Therefore, all meal preparation should take place in the cafeteria kitchen with approved equipment and ingredients following a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) food safety plan. North Carolina General Statute § 130A‐247 and North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NCDENR) 15A NCAC 18A .2600 Rules Governing the Sanitation of Food Service Establishments provide detailed information.
 
The Division of Environmental Health in the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources has drafted revisions to the 15A NCAC 18A .2400 Rules Governing Sanitation of Public, Privateand Religious Schools. The draft revisions are currently undergoing a fiscal impact assessment. If adopted, the revisions will regulate food preparation practices in the classroom setting. The response to this question will be updated as new information is received.  Contact the local Environmental Health specialist if clarification is needed.
 
References:
  • N.C. Standard Course of Study K‐12, N.C. Department of Public Instruction www.ncpublicschools.org/curriculum/
  • Title 15A, Subchapter 18A – N.C. Administrative Code, N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources www.deh.enr.state.nc.us/ehs/rules.htm
  • Commercial Kitchen Standards, Child Nutrition Services, N.C. Department of Public Instruction http://dpi.state.nc.us/childnutrition/publications/foodsafety/commercial

 

What foods are NOT allowed for meal preparation in EC classrooms?

Food safety is the first consideration. Many of the students involved meal preparation have food allergies or sensitivities.  There are regulations for highly susceptible populations and special considerations for juice, pasteurized eggs or egg products, ready-to-eat foods, and tube feedings. 

Juice
  • Fresh-squeezed juice can NOT be served.  All juice must be prepackaged and pasteurized or in a commercially sterile, shelf-stable form in a hermetically-sealed container.
  • Juice prepared from concentrate using safe, potable water is allowed as long as safe food handling practices are followed.
Pasteurized Eggs or Egg-Products
  • Substitute pasteurized eggs or egg products for raw eggs when making recipes calling for lightly cooked eggs. 
  • All eggs and egg dishes must be cooked to at least 145 degrees F or hotter for immediate service or 155 degrees if hot held. 
Ready-to-Eat Foods
 
  • Do NOT serve: raw animal foods (raw fish or shellfish; raw marinated fish; steak tartar), partially cooked animal foods (lightly cooked fish; rare meat, soft cooked eggs from raw eggs; meringues), raw unpasteurized milk or products made from it, raw seed sprouts
 

The same foods that are prohibited or avoided in the school cafeteria kitchens should be avoided in instructional use as well.  Consultation with the Child Nutrition Director is encouraged. 

 

Can students microwave food if it is part of a life skills goal?

If food handling and preparation are part of the student' curriculum then a student can use the microwave as part of a life skills goal.  Environmental health inspects and licenses food preparation and service areas for intructional purposes separately.  The principal of your school should know these rules or how to contact environmental health for consultation. 

 
Are students allowed to sell foods prepared in the classroom?
Competitive foods and beverages may not be sold during the school day until after the last school lunch meal is served and the cafeteria closes
for the day. “Occupational home economics instructional programs which operate under an approved annual vocational education plan and which involve the preparation and sale of foods to individuals other than students are not in competition with the Child Nutrition program.”
 
References:
  • 16 NCAC 6H.0004 Policy and standards for the National School Lunch Program, Policy ID EEO‐S‐000, N.C. State Board of Education www.ncpublicschools.org/docs/childnutrition/publications/competitivefoods/sbepolicy‐cnprograms‐1986.pdf
  • N.C. Standard Course of Study K‐12, N.C. Department of Public Instruction www.ncpublicschools.org/curriculum/
 
 
Can foods left over from a student’s school meal or snack be saved?
 
Foods and beverages that pass the Child Nutrition cashier at the point of service cannot be returned to the cafeteria serving line for re‐service under any circumstances. These foods and beverages are considered sold to the student; therefore, the student would determine whether to discard or save an item for later personal consumption.
 
When the student is finished with the meal or snack, most leftover foods should be discarded. There is a significant risk of foodborne illness if potentially hazardous foods are not handled safely and held at proper temperatures. The only exceptions to saving leftovers from the student’s meal or snack would be for non‐potentially hazardous food such as unopened, commercially packaged crackers and whole (uncut) fresh fruit. If these non‐potentially hazardous foods are saved for later consumption, they should be consumed or discarded by the student selecting the original meal or snack and should not be transferred to another person to minimize any intentional or unintentional contamination.
 
References:
  • Commercial Kitchen Standards, Child Nutrition Services, N.C. Department of Public Instruction http://dpi.state.nc.us/childnutrition/publications/foodsafety/commercial
  • Title 15A, Subchapter 18A – N.C. Administrative Code, N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources www.deh.enr.state.nc.us/ehs/rules.htm
  • Food Code 2009, Food and Drug Administration, Public Health Service, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/RetailFoodProtection/FoodCode/FoodCode2009/
 
Can we serve foods from school gardens to students who require accommodations for special dietary needs?
 
 
School staff must always follow the dietary instructions on the Medical Statement for Students with Special Nutritional Needs for School Meals that have been prescribed by the licensed physician. It is the responsibility of the classroom teacher in consultation with the parent or guardian, school nurse, and school administrators to determine if foods from unapproved or uninspected sources may be served in the classroom. Students with special dietary needs may have weakened immune systems and be more highly susceptible to foodborne illness, especially from raw foods.
 
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Food Code prohibits the service of unpasteurized fresh fruit juice and raw sprouts to highly susceptible populations. Other raw fruits and vegetables may also carry a high risk of contamination. Therefore, it is recommended that foods from school gardens not be served to students with disabilities who require special dietary accommodations. Fresh fruits and vegetables served in the school cafeteria are obtained either from approved sources that follow a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) food safety plan or from growers that are certified for Good Agricultural Practices (GAP). School gardens may lack these important safeguards against foodborne illness.
 
References:
  • Medical Statement for Students with Special Nutritional Needs for School Meals, Child Nutrition Services, N.C. Department of Public Instruction http://dpi.state.nc.us/docs/childnutrition/publications/special‐diet/medical‐statement.doc
  • Food Code 2009, Food and Drug Administration, Public Health Service, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/RetailFoodProtection/FoodCode/FoodCode2009/
  • Commercial Kitchen Standards, Child Nutrition Services, N.C. Department of Public Instruction http://dpi.state.nc.us/childnutrition/publications/foodsafety/commercial