This brief addresses “open” or “off ” campus policies that allow high school students to go off campus to purchase and eat food during their lunch periods. The brief highlights issues related to open campus policies and complements the separate Legal Notes: Open Campus Lunch, which highlights some of the legal issues related to off campus lunch and the creation of effective policy addressing this matter. OPEN CAMPUS LUNCH POLICY DECISIONMAKERS Copies of Legal Notes: Open Campus Lunch, Mapping School Food, and other related materials are available on the Public Health Advocacy Institute website at: www.phaionline. org/schoolfood. For more on Potter Boxes, please review Mapping School Food.
A quick primer, Potter Boxes at a Glance, is also provided near the end of this brief. This issue brief and the legal notes will help you craft your own Potter Box—a decision-making matrix—that provides a legal and social framework and helps identify key legal access points directed towards reaching your policy goal. This brief defines an open or off campus policy as one that allows select or all students to leave campus during the lunch period to purchase or consume food and beverages.
Therefore, a school with a “modified” policy that only allows certain students who meet specified requirements to go off campus is considered to have an open campus policy. This brief defines a closed campus policy as one that does not allow any students to leave campus during lunch or any other time during the school day. The focus of this brief is on high schools, although research and data that extend to elementary and middle school students were evaluated in preparation of this brief. Open and closed campus policies can be set at the state level by a state board of education or by the state’s education code.
Typically, policies are set at the district level by the school district board. The district can create base guidelines establishing an open campus, but it can additionally allow the principal at each school the authority to make provisions or decide under certain circumstances whether or not to allow off campus privileges. In California, for instance, the Stockton Unified School District board policy makes detailed provisions for open campuses but gives the school principal the power to completely close campus if there are specific reasons to do so.
In addition to board members, the superintendent is a key decision-maker because he or she must implement the board’s policies. Off campus policies can also be set at the school level by the principal. See legal notes, School Structure, Power, and Responsibility: From State Laws to High School Handbooks, for additional information. Open campus lunch laws and policies do not exist in a vacuum. Policy goals, community support, and specific situational facts must be taken into consideration or the law or policy can be rendered useless, harmful, or ignored.
OPEN AND CLOSED CAMPUSES BY THE NUMBERS High schools tend to have unhealthier school food environments than elementary schools. Open and closed school campus policies have the potential to affect students’ health, safety, and security, as well as to influence the school environment itself in these 1 Open Campus Lunch Off the Map: Extracurricular School Food areas. The 2006 School Health Policies and Programs Study showed that nationwide 71. 1 percent of high school districts and 73.
1 percent of high schools had a closed campus policy where students could not leave campus during lunch or at any other time during the school day (compared with 65. 9 and 73. 4 percent, respectively, in 2000). This is similar to a finding of about 25 percent of high schools having open campuses obtained in spring 2005 by the third School Nutrition Dietary Assessment Study (SNDA-III). Percentages can vary by state and study. A 2003 survey of California high schools found that 46 percent had open campuses, the same as it found in its 2000 survey.
We conducted a small, informal survey with people who provided input for Mapping School Food and who impact the school food environment in Arkansas, California, Massachusetts, and Mississippi. We also reviewed notes from interviews conducted in 2007 in preparation for Mapping School Food. The results of the survey are anecdotal evidence to enhance this brief and cannot be generalized. A little under one fifth of those surveyed stated that the school or district they worked with had an open campus policy.
Some did not have open campuses because they worked primarily with younger students not yet in high school. There is a strong link between a student’s dietary behavior and his or her risk of becoming overweight. Students should eat less low-nutrient, energy-dense foods and beverages and more fruits, vegetables, and low- or no-fat milk. A study of Minnesota secondary school students found a strong link between frequency of eating fast food and “poorer food choices,” resulting in more fatty and sugary foods—and less fruits, vegetables, and milk—consumed.
Most of those we surveyed felt that food and beverages obtained through concession stands, fundraisers, school stores, and off campus lunch periods were unhealthy, and over half believed that students would purchase healthier foods if they were available. They thought that most of their students who bought food and beverages near campus did so at chain fast food establishments and minimarts with prepared foods. Depending on what is offered in the cafeteria and school, closing the campus for lunch could eliminate the fast food option and help strengthen good food choices.
Foods subsidized by federal programs must comply with certain nutrition regulations and generally are called program foods, while all other school food generally can be considered non-program or competitive foods. For more information, see Mapping School Food, particularly Appendix: Federal School Meal Programs and its Legal Practitioner’s Point. The United States Department of Agriculture’s SNDA-III found that students who participated in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) were more likely to consume fruits, vegetables, and milk.
Correspondingly, non-participants were more likely to consume snacks, desserts, and beverages like sodas during the lunch period. Policy changes that restricted non-program foods, meaning food obtained through school stores, snack bars, and a la carte options, resulted in a reduction of sugar-sweetened beverages consumed by middle and high school youth. Closed high school campuses also were linked to an increase in eating vegetables.
However, these initial analyses from the dataset collected during the 2004–2005 scholastic year must be taken into consideration with one finding of no strong association between school food policies and high school students’ obesity risk. Continued research into this rich data set is necessary to clarify and further inform these analyses. Policymakers should explore if closing campuses for lunch will improve healthier choices and eating habits. The 2003 California High School Fast Food
“The food environment surrounding schools could easily negate school food policies and health education in the classroom, especially in high schools with an open campus policy that allows students to leave campus during their lunch break. ” STURM (2008) STUDENT HEALTH, NUTRITION, EATING PATTERNS, AND SCHOOL FOOD The school environment is an important sphere in the development of dietary behavior. Policymakers should craft school food laws or rules that encourage healthier options while restricting unhealthier options.
They also should assess open campus lunch policies because these policies can affect policy goals regarding the school food environment. 2 Open Campus Lunch Off the Map: Extracurricular School Food Survey found indications that schools with an open campus lunch policy reported less participation in the NSLP compared to schools with closed campus policies. The SNDA-III reported that 14 percent of high school students who were interviewed about what they ate on a certain day reported that they did not participate in the NSLP because they went off campus to eat lunch.
Thus, there is the possibility that closed campus policies could encourage increased NSLP participation and healthier eating habits. Open and closed campus lunch policies must be examined further in the context of their relationship to school food and student health. There is also a perception issue that demands attention. Regarding open campus lunch policies, one Massachusetts Food Service Director commented, “It sends the message that school food is not as good as fast food and also there are a great deal of safety issues involved with leaving and returning.
” Some students may perceive a certain stigma with regard to cafeteria food—particularly program foods—which must be corrected. CLUSTERING OF FAST FOOD ESTABLISHMENTS, RACIAL AND SOCIOECONOMIC DISPARITIES food or other establishments clustering around the school should evaluated. School policy must also consider student subgroups that could be disparately impacted by the clustering of fast food establishments and/or the adverse health effects of overweight. Studies show that fast food restaurants cluster within easy walking distance around schools.
A recent study of middle and high schools in California found a direct relationship between fast food establishments being near those schools and the students being overweight. It also found that students within walking distance of fast food restaurants were significantly less likely to say they had eaten fruits or vegetables and more likely to have consumed soda. The study did find a larger association of overweight being associated with fast food proximity for Black students which it did not find with other racial and ethnic minority student populations.
It also found the same increased association for students in urban schools. Overweight is a health indicator displaying significant disparities amongst racial and ethnic minority youth, as certain groups have higher risks of obesity and resultant health problems compared with others. Studies also have indicated that low-income and racial minority students can tend to live in communities with less safe streets, poorer facilities, and/or greater access to low-nutrient, energy-dense foods and less access to healthy foods.
One study examined high and middle schools and their proximity to restaurants, convenience stores, snack stores, and liquor stores. Observing racial and socioeconomic variances, it found that Hispanic students are more likely to go to schools within close Open campus and other school policies should aid student development in all areas including nutrition and health. Fast food availability around schools encourages consumption of low-nutrient, energydense food and could influence students’ developing decision-making skills and habits regarding nutrition. When crafting school policy, the significance of fast
“While it is important to respect adolescents’ increasing autonomy and decisionmaking skills, research clearly shows that food availability is one of the strongest correlates of food choices in adolescents. ” NEUMARK – SZTAINER ET AL . (2005) In study results published in 2005, over a thousand, mostly suburban, high school students were surveyed across twenty high schools in a region in Minnesota. At least six of the high schools had an open campus policy. The study found that students on an open campus were “significantly more likely” to get their lunches from fast food establishments and convenience stores.
It also found that students in upper grade levels purchased lunch from convenience stores or fast food restaurants with greater frequency than students in lower grade levels. The study concluded that school food policies that limit access to low-nutrient, energy-dense foods and beverages are linked with students purchasing these types of food and beverages less frequently. 3 Open Campus Lunch Off the Map: Extracurricular School Food walking distance of those types of establishments. That particular study did not find such strong associations among other racial groups, except with regard to liquor stores.
Another study published in early 2009 found that fast food restaurants in New York were concentrated in commercial areas and in predominantly Black communities in both low-income and more affluent areas. More data and studies are needed to clarify the relationship between different establishments’ proximity to schools and student eating patterns—and how racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and other factors are related to fast food establishment clustering, overweight, and health risks. Still, these factors newly have been considered in local land use law, and they should be considered when crafting current school policy.
In Los Angeles, an ordinance recently passed that puts a one year moratorium on building new fast food establishments in areas of South Los Angeles, which have large Latino and Black communities. The ordinance was significantly motivated by the city council’s concerns about how the proliferation of fast food restaurants escalate socioeconomic problems in low-income neighborhoods—and this proliferation’s impact on food security and children’s health and nutrition. Hopefully, the moratorium will provide time for more permanent regulatory controls to be put in place.
See legal notes, Legal Interventions—Holistic Considerations, for additional information. LOCAL BUSINESSES AND ENVIRONMENT go off campus for lunch, said that local businesses donate money to the school, and a closed campus policy would likely cause the loss of those donations. However, in our informal survey, the few people that did work with schools that received donations from local businesses that sell food or beverages did not feel that those donations were a necessary part of the school’s overall budget.
When constructing your Potter Box, the facts of the situation will clarify specific concerns, such as local establishments’ reliance on youths’ lunch money and whether these businesses donate or contribute to the high school(s) to an extent that it could impact policy decisions. Local businesses therefore can be attuned to the school’s schedule and policies. “We always know when kids aren’t going to be in school,” a pizza manager told a newspaper. “When kids are home from school they’re ordering pizzas, so we schedule another driver.
” Local businesses also may contribute to the schools in non-monetary ways like monitoring and reporting student behavior. Antioch Unified School District in California is starting a “We Tip” program where local businesses are encouraged to report truancy. Improved average daily attendance results in more monetary support from the government. Programs like “We Tip” have to be measured against closed campus policies to see which is—or if both applied together are—more effective and beneficial to the school.
Most of those we surveyed who had experience with off campus policies felt that such policies were popular with local businesses and students and, conversely, not popular at all with cafeteria staff and food service directors. They also thought their location and community could not accommodate an open campus lunch policy. The outflow of students during the lunch period may cause problems or potential hazards in the local area. Residents may be worried about students bringing large groups of their peers and congregating in homes or complexes. Schools in rural areas may not have businesses nearby.
Off campus lunch can be viewed as a valuable revenue stream for local businesses. One “highly profitable” fast food location up for sale advertised in 2007 as a factor in its value that it is located next to “a high school which allows off campus lunch time to their students. ” These businesses may in turn make donations or otherwise support the school. The school’s perception of the value of these local business donations could conflict with instituting healthier school food initiatives. A principal from Modoc County, California, who estimated that 80 percent of students 4 Open Campus Lunch.
Off the Map: Extracurricular School Food SAFETY ISSUES, TIME, AND CAR ACCIDENTS Safety issues also factor into determining open and closed campus policy. One Californian who works in nutritional education emphasized that safety issues were concerns “especially at the high school where there is an open campus. ” Newspapers report incidents like fighting, fatal car accidents, mugging, substance abuse and arrest, and sexual assault as occurring off campus during lunch periods. Although these incident rates may be relatively small, each incident can have a significant impact on the school and its students.
Time is a considerable factor in evaluating a policy’s safety and feasibility. The lunch period may be too short for students to reasonably go off campus for lunch. An overwhelming number of those we surveyed thought that there was not enough time for students to go off campus, buy and eat lunch, and return on time. Some of those surveyed reported having as little as twenty minutes allotted for lunch, and a student article, discussed below in Student Input and Support, averaged a 37 minute high school lunch period. Schools with open campus policies should monitor whether or not the policy affects afternoon tardiness or truancy.
Also, time issues may encourage unhealthier eating off campus. One Virginia public high school has an “Off-Site Lunch Contract Senior Privilege Form” as part of its off campus lunch driver permit. The contract stresses that this is a privilege, limited to seniors and extended lunch days. It requires students not to travel alone, sets area restrictions, and states, “There is plenty of variety in fast food establishments within the boundaries provided. Students should choose establishments that can serve within five to ten minutes of your arrival. You should allow at minimum 15 minutes of driving/parking time.
” In granting the privilege to go off campus for lunch, the school policy seems to encourage students to eat fast food in order for the policy to operate smoothly and for students to return on time. Traffic accidents are a major concern for many high schools. Student drivers add to lunchtime traffic congestion, and students driving to pick up lunch may rush back to class. A study of three North Carolina counties over four years found that there was a “significantly higher” rate of risk for car accidents during open campus lunch periods compared to any other time of the day and compared to a county with closed campus lunch.
There were also more passengers in the cars during lunch period accidents. Safety concerns and student fatalities during lunch periods have resulted in the proposal of two New York State assembly bills designed to regulate off campus policy. Student injuries and death that occurred while the students were off campus during the lunch period also have resulted in lawsuits being brought against school districts and officials. See legal notes, Open Campus Lunch Tort Concerns and School Structure, Power, and Responsibility: From State Laws to High School Handbooks, for more information.
CAFETERIA AND CAMPUS CONCERNS— ADEQUATE TIME, FACILITIES, SUPERVISION, AND BUDGET Closing an open campus may give high schools the ability to refocus school food issues like cafeteria breakfast, lunch, vendors, and water fountains. One Arkansas School District Nurse commented, “My districts do not want anything on campus that competes with the federal lunch program. ” A closed campus could assist in a comprehensive approach to improving school food and offering healthy food choices on campus. What are the practical considerations when closing an open campus?
About half of those surveyed who had experience with open campus lunch policies thought their school or district, as it stood, could provide lunch to all its students. A few specifically suggested that schools would need to improve food options in cafeterias, extend the lunch periods, and expand and renovate facilities for food preparation. A school or district deciding to close a campus for lunch needs to ensure the necessary resources are in place before the policy is implemented. 5 Open Campus Lunch Off the Map: Extracurricular School Food.
The high school or district needs to determine whether the cafeteria and campus can adequately handle a closed campus. For example: What kinds of burden will the additional students who used to go off campus for lunch put on the cafeteria? Factors include: Time. Adequate time to eat lunch is a concern in the cafeteria just as much as it is off campus. One California food services staff exclaimed, “30 minutes to serve 3,000! ” Some cafeterias have to stagger their lunch periods, with students eating lunch anywhere from 10:30 a. m. to 2:00 p. m.
The 2006 School Health Policies and Programs Study found students on average have 22. 8 minutes to eat lunch once seated. It also found an increase in school districts that required a “minimum seating time” for eating lunch once seated. Facilities. This includes cafeteria space, kitchen and food production capacity, etc. The school might want to consider renovations that would help accommodate more and even healthier food options or improve the flow of students getting their food. Facilities also include fences and other structures that may be necessary to control a closed campus.
A California principal anticipated, “All 1,200 students eat at the same time and it would be a nightmare to serve all of these students with the current setup. ” A California Nutrition Educationalist stated, “Closing the campus at the high school has been discussed numerous times in the past with the results always being that it would be too difficult to close campus and we are lacking in facilities to accommodate the students. ” Supervision. School officials have a duty to supervise the students on campus.
When deciding whether to close a campus, it should be deter-mined whether there are enough resources and staff to adequately supervise the students during the lunch period. Also, can students leaving and entering the campus be adequately supervised? Budget. Foreseeable costs incurred by staff or facilities changes need to be supported by already overextended school budgets. Among the school food decision-makers we informally surveyed, the top two concerns to their district or school were the school budget and the school food budget. This could be a potential barrier to closing a campus.
However, closing a school’s campus could be seen as an investment in student health, safety, and perhaps monetary return. Most of those we surveyed with open campus lunch policy experience thought that a closed campus would increase cafeteria profit, and none of them thought it would decrease profit. Specific research may be needed for an advocate to determine whether and by how much a closed campus policy could increase cafeteria revenues. Potential impact on student health should also be evaluated. For example: How will closing campus affect students’ eating patterns both on campus and outside of school?
What are the choices on a closed campus and how healthy are they? What changes can be made to offer a variety of healthier, appealing food choices? One high school in Missouri was able to close its campus after it moved into a newly built structure that could accommodate serving food to all the students and staff. Yet closing a campus for lunch does not necessarily keep fast food away, as the food services supervisor contemplated using vendors such as Pizza Hut and Quiznos—in part because “it helps out the community merchants. ”
“Our food service program operates in the black now, whereas it never did before,” said Kevin Ivers, Bridgman’s superintendent, noting that the high school had added a second lunch period to reduce lines, and overhauled the menu to introduce quesadillas, yogurt, salads and fruit. “That enables us to put more money into the classrooms. ” NEW YORK TIMES ( MAY 2008) A 2008 New York Times article noted that school districts in New York and nationwide were instituting closed campus lunch policies due to car accident-related deaths, injury, and truancy.
The Times also anecdotally interviewed specific high schools where closing campuses for lunch had improved attendance for post-lunch classes, increased cafeteria sales by in some cases over 10 percent and 22 percent, and turned a food service program operating at a loss into a profitable one. However it also cited concerns that closed campus lunch policies were part of a trend in restricting youths and hindering their decision-making experiences. 6 Open Campus Lunch Off the Map: Extracurricular School Food STUDENT INPUT AND SUPPORT.
Student input and support are critical to a successful closed campus lunch policy. School lunch is a popular topic for high school students. LA Youth, an online student journal that reaches half a million Los Angeles County youth, published an informal survey a few years ago where student reporters found out “What’s for Lunch? ” in their high schools. Examining twenty four public and private high schools in Southern California, it found that lunch on average lasts thirtyseven minutes. About two thirds of schools had vendors in cafeterias or push carts, and most schools had open campus policies for seniors.
Only about four schools had a fully closed campus. The survey also noted types of vendors (Subway, Pizza Hut, and Dominos being the most common), cafeteria menus (Mexican food and sandwiches being popular), and cafeteria food prices. Many students may balk at a closed campus policy, seeing it as restricting their freedom and taking away a reward for good grades, attendance, or other open campus policy requirements. A Californian nursing manager described the toughest obstacles to changing open campus policy as the “objections of community stores and restaurants and student protests.
” Students may be more likely to advocate for open campus policies. After two high school students approached the School Committee, a Massachusetts high school started an off campus pilot program open to only seniors in good standing. At the time, key issues or concerns with the program were safety, student initiative/input, incentives for students to improve grades and behavior, monetary impact on school food, student nutrition, “rewarding children with junk food,” and potentially teaching responsibility and time management.
While the pilot program and these issues were being discussed in 2004, the high school currently allows seniors who meet certain requirements off campus lunch privileges. Other students have opened up online forums such as MySpace message boards to discuss and protest their school’s attempts to close their campus for lunch. An advocate seeking to change a high school or district’s off campus lunch policy may consider surveying or interviewing students to find out what is important to them so as to determine potential sources of student support.
These tools also could be useful in finding what influences students’ food and beverage choices—such as cost, certain tastes, convenience— in order to make healthy choices in school food more appealing. Another LA Youth article discussed a student having informal weekly potlucks with friends that focused on “food adventure” and not on eating healthier foods. This could nonetheless spark ideas and discussions about using similar methods to promote healthier eating programs and deciding what types of equipment could be helpful, such as microwaves and secured refrigerators. Other student newspapers have covered open campus policies.
One student reporter, who found that fifteen out of twenty students surveyed ate daily at Jack in the Box, Wendy’s, or McDonald’s, recommended that her high school “ban off-campus lunch, and improve the food in our school cafeteria. ” Most of those we surveyed were involved with schools that had nutrition education programs. Perhaps encouraging student-led nutritional education projects to supplement or strengthen existing nutrition education programs could lead to some innovative ideas, positive results, and student support for policies like closed campus lunch. LACK OF ENFORCEMENT AND LEADERSHIP
The number one obstacle to implementing the type of food program desired by those surveyed was lack of enforcement of school food policies. The next two obstacles were lack of resources and time constraints in the budget’s timeline. One person surveyed recommended to “put in policies a way of enforcing any regulations that are mandated. ” Another who worked in food service in California suggested “tougher penalties. ” A community health nurse specialist in Arkansas pointed to the relationship between leadership and enforcement: “Leadership in schools has to enforce the school’s policies or the policy is ineffective.
” A food service director in Massachusetts stated, “Lack of funding has resulted in lack of good leadership for the district. Policies on safety, wellness, etc. , have taken a back seat to teacher loss and budget cuts. With our school budget in a deficit and no town support for an over-ride, my personal feeling is we will keep losing students to school choice and private schools. ” For legal analysis on building enforcement and accountability into school policy, see legal notes, Enforcement Issues and Possible Enforcement Mechanisms. 7 Open Campus Lunch Off the Map: Extracurricular School Food.
OTHER POLICY CHANGE CONCERNS Sources describe open campus lunch for students as a “privilege. ” Policymakers and advocates should stress that off campus lunch is not a right or requirement. If the policy has academic achievement, attendance, and/or other requirements, this policy is also characterized as a reward for students. Advocates may want to consider suggesting alternate rewards. While wellness policies generally do not address off campus lunch policies, perhaps the two should be integrated in order to frame the off campus issue as one of student health.
One superintendent told a newspaper that it was “hard for one campus to have one rule and another campus to have another. ‘We don’t want advantages or disadvantages to going one way or the other. ’” Students also have stated that it was unfair if their campus was closed and neighboring high school students could go off campus for lunch. Perhaps consider a comprehensive district ban. Tradition or culture may be obstacles to changing the policy. As a food service director from Massachusetts noted, “Change is never easy. We do not have off campus lunch.
However, I worked in a school that did previously and it was very difficult to change even though it was discussed every year! ” YOUR NEXT STEPS To help you with your next steps, this issue brief provides factors that will help you construct your own Potter Box about off campus lunch policy. Hopefully, this brief, the accompanying legal piece, and Mapping School Food will provide you with a strong foundation upon which to construct policy that fulfills your own goals. A blank Potter Box for you to fill out is provided on page 12 of Mapping School Food, or you can make your own.
You may also want to consult the Model Decision-Maker Potter Box on page 13 and the other filled-in Potter Boxes in Mapping School Food. POTTER BOXES AT A GLANCE BOX 2 Values and Tools BOX 1 Excerpts from Mapping School Food: The Potter Box is a four-part square that can help you make informed decisions. While the Potter Box cannot make a decision for you, it can help clarify your options and why you would choose one option over another. We have adapted the Potter Box to help you clarify the interactions between the many factors that affect school food decisions and critique the different factors that affect your own decision making.
This modified version of the Potter Box can…help you understand the law and to identify key decision-makers. It also demonstrates how the law plays out in real-world situations and the assumptions and concerns that various decision-makers bring to bear on school food policy. Facts List all the facts known about the situation or problem. List the factors that drive your school food decisions. What are the elements that you need to consider when making decisions? What tools do you typically use? How are the solutions to the problem evaluated?