Food Regulations May Prompt TGIF Cancelation

Last spring, seven food trucks came for the TGIF celebration. The administration is looking to cancel the event this year due to violation of food regulations.


Talon File Photo.

By Julia Santos and Evelin Diego

The end of the year TGIF celebration, involving food trucks and bouncy houses on the back field, may be cancelled due to state and federal policies regarding food. Competitive food sales with the cafeteria and violations of USDA dietary guidelines could discontinue TGIF.

Currently, the future of TGIF is still uncertain and will await Associate Superintendent of Business Services Mike Mathiesen’s approval when presented.

The major issues with the items from the food trucks stem from the fact that Los Altos participates in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), a federally assisted meal program that provides nutritional food at low or reduced costs for low income students. As part of the program, all food sold on campus must be by the cafeteria or student organizations and must follow regulations such as portion sizes and average calorie count.

Mathiesen is responsible for approving school events that include the sales of food on campus, and he hopes to find a potential solution to TGIF that pleases the students and abides by the rules. ASB is still discussing their options.

“The whole program basically sets the guidelines for the type of food that can be offered during the school day,” Mathiesen said. “So when we want to have events — which I am supportive of — and want kids to have fun and take ownership and plan the events, we just always have to be mindful of what are the guidelines and the nutritional content of the food that we are offering.”

Competitive food sales also harm the cafeteria. Partaking in the NSLP qualifies the school for reimbursements — the state reimburses the cafeteria $0.2306 for every meal sold. According to the California Department of Education (CDE), which enforces USDA regulations, compliant foods must “be a fruit, vegetable, dairy, protein, or whole grain item (or have one of these as the first ingredient), or be a combination food containing at least ¼ cup fruit or vegetable.” But the food trucks that visit as a part of TGIF do not follow the California Education Code, and failure to follow regulations and the selling of noncompliant foods may result in fines or the cancellation of reimbursements.

“None of those food trucks are in compliance [with the CDE code] and it’s competition,” MVLA School District Food Services Coordinator Debra Godfrey said. “By law, you can’t have anything being sold [that doesn’t follow food regulations] unless you’re giving it away. If you’re giving it away for free, it doesn’t matter but if you’re selling it and you’re making money, any kind of money it has to be in compliance.”

The school could still host TGIF with just bouncy houses, but that “wouldn’t be a wise investment,” Assistant Principal Suzanne Woolfolk said. The bouncy houses cost $3,000 and students would spend more time getting food instead of enjoying the bouncy houses.

However, Woolfolk and ASB are still searching for other options so that there will be no violations of food regulations nor competition with the cafeteria.

“I have yet to find any food trucks that will meet the nutritional guideline set forth by the cafeteria at school,” Woolfolk said.