Thursday, April 3, 2014

What Do You Mean We Can't Cook Anymore?

We got some bad news yesterday at work.  Because of food service guidelines we are no longer allowed to serve food to the kids that has not been prepared by our food service providers. This means no more potlucks, no more BBQ's, no more birthday cupcakes, and no more cooking in class (this one makes me the most sad). This will also include the restaurant food my students deliver every other Friday to help earn money for our program.  They have also closed down our student cafe, which sold healthy prepackaged snacks.  OH, and did I mention the popcorn and snow cone machines the students JUST purchased so they could sell these items in the quad on Fridays? Those are out too!

IMO teaching the kids to cook is a MAJOR part of teaching them how to be independent. I only have them for four years! My job is to make them as independent as I possibly can before they leave at age 22 to enter the adult day program where they will most likely spend the rest of their lives. Friday my aide was supposed to be teaching her annual homemade tortilla class with the kids.  Next Tuesday we were having a weenie roast at the park and the week after that we were going to make sandwiches and pack sack lunches to take to the zoo with us. It really makes me sick to think of all these great learning opportunities that ALL the kids in our program will be missing out on!


I would love to know how your school handles this kind of thing.  Maybe this is a common practice and we were just behind the times. Please let me know how your school handles non food service food items. How do you teach the kids food prep without using food?  

Thanks for the vent :-(


  1. Hi Karen,
    I am sure that my school district is going in that direction also...there seems to be too much oversight by people who don't understand the work we do. The problem I am having is different, and I am hearing it from more and more teachers. My student also had a campus based program that helped us raise money to support our cooking, CBIs, and other classroom needs (things like latex gloves, paper towels, laminating sheets, markers...there was never any money in our school for those things). Now, the district auditors are not allowing us to use that money for those things. They tell me it can only be used for "curricular" needs, not food, bus fares, lunch. They want me to get the other supplies through our school principal, who of course, says there is no money. The district then cleaned out our hard-earned money and moved it to a general fund. It was close to $1000 that my students had worked very hard to earn. How are we supposed to teach job skills when we are expected to work for free?

    1. ask your nurse (or someone on the health & safety committee), but you should be able to bill gloves to the health & safety budget. my budget never paid for's a safety issue.

  2. That's terrible! How disappointing for you and the kids! Our money all goes into one fund. They keep track of who turns in what and if we need money for something, all we have to do is submit a request form to the student body. Once they, and the principal approve it, we can get what we need. It's not dollar for dollar by any means, especially since some classes SLP don't generate any money, but it does help. The majority of the money earned has to go for things that benefit all the classes. They do make some exceptions. Especially if a class is earning a lot. I can't imagine the district taking it, so unfair. Sorry

  3. In my district, there are no restrictions on cooking or food, and we can do what we want. Perhaps if parents speak up about how this is a life skill, someone might make an exception. Or write it in the IEP. My district is still firmly in the life skills arena, but I have noticed more districts moving towards academics only for students with moderate to severe needs.

  4. Hi Jannike, so nice that you guys can do what you want! We had no restrictions before Wednesday either. Seems "food service" is the one who is coming down on us. I am hoping at least some of it get's lifted. My argument "they are adults" didn't go over big, lol. I always say I embrace change, but this is ridiculous. I like you ideas, thanks!!

  5. If it's coming from 'food service' they're proly just irritated that, in their minds, your kids/program is taking money from them (kids/staff buying food from you, instead of them). Maybe you could still use your new machines at track & field day for the elementary? Or any sort of carnival or something that your school may do for fundrasiers?
    I cook with my kids, I don't foresee a problem...pending I don't start another toaster fire!, but my program is also called Functional Living Skills Program. If the kids are to do 'traditional academics' they don't enter my program. We don't sell food, mostly because there is no place to get food from in a 1 gas station no restaurant town, but also because our food service dept isn't kind & I'm sure they would have an issue with it.
    My kids do a lot of work for the school & two places off campus, but we do everything for free. My budget is just under $2,000 for the year...trips, supplies, food, etc. I typically ask parents to pay for half an outing (I pay food, they pay movie pass...or whatever) just to make it last a little longer. I also have families send lists of supplies & money, then the kids outing turns into a life skills shopping trip that helps their family too.

  6. I agree with you Lacey about food service and I will talk to my boss about the fundraisers, that's a great idea. We only teach functional academics as well, the WHOLE point of our program is to teach independent living skills. A lot of our regular high school special ed programs lost all their classroom budget money this year, so sad for the kids. And so nice that your parents can help out!

  7. That is terrible! I don't see why you can't (at the very least) cook in class if only your students are going to eat it! If they aren't serving it to anyone, it shouldn't 't be a food service issue! I also agree that maybe you should put it in their IEPs. Otherwise, maybe you could cook at the end of the day and have them take it home (not ideal but maybe the only way to still practice those critical skills). We cook every week in my classroom!

  8. part of their argument is that if we cook something in class and a student gets food poisoning from it, the district would be held liable. I really wish I had written it in some of my IEP's. I just turned in my last one for the year on Friday.

  9. If the talks with the boss fail, I think a call to the state or call to administration/state, would do it. I don't know if this is something that can be taken away from a Life Skills class. Good luck with the chat with the boss!

  10. That is terrible!!! Our school won't let us sell items we have cooked either, but we have our students cook snacks for themselves and make things as a class all of the time.

    That they won't let you deliver the restaurant food makes no sense to me. You are selling that only to teachers and buying it from a restaurant, right? That's crazy!

    Do you have it written anywhere in your syllabus, course description, or curriculum that cooking is a part of your education? I think if you do that could help your case.

    I think you can definitely fight this. Let us know how everything goes and if I can help in any way, let me know!!

  11. Thanks for responding! As of yesterday they have said we CAN cook in class as long as the student is cooking his own food for himself! At least it's a step in the right direction. I have so many cooking components in my summer school curriculum coming up that I was going to have to fill them with other ideas. This will work great for items like pancakes and grilled cheese. Not sure about cookies and such. BABY STEPS!

  12. We were not allowed to do school-run businesses until after I was moved from the program. I worked and begged and fought and wrote letters for 3 years, then we were allowed to do it. The class made things and bought a Wii, used it for trips, all sorts of things. We're not allowed (none of the programs, even clubs) to sell food before or during school because the cafeteria is a for-profit operation. A lot of other schools i've worked in, the students run a cafe or sandwich shoppe or cookie bakery or something similar, but not where I am. This is changing a bit; one transition teacher in another school has been running a successful coffee shop for teachers. But, this is kind of allowed because the cafeteria doesn't sell coffee. I've also had students do work-study in the school cafeteria where they've made the cookies the cafeteria sells in other schools, but not in this one. Our current life skills teachers do not do any cooking with the kids at all. The students go as a group to our consumer science teacher who works with them with the TAs. I hate to say it, but it really upsets me, because when I and another teacher had the classes we cooked a lot. We did a huge thanksgiving party every year where the kids did the shopping and cooking, we would have a breakfast day during exam weeks, we studied social studies for the alternate assessment by learning about the different kinds of bread that other cultures have, then making the different kinds from the students in our class... We learned how to make naan, tortillas, challah, white bread, pita and unleavened bread. The students took videos of themselves (hands only!) doing the projects, wrote reports, everything. It was fantastic. When I taught in the inner city, I often joked that I was going to be in real trouble if I was ever audited by the IRS for business expenses because ALL of mine were from the grocery store for macaroni, shredded cheese, hot dogs, bread, eggs, apple juice, hot dogs, milk, dish soap... If I had to say what I miss most about having to do core curriculum it is cooking with the students and going in the community.

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