High School and Extracurricular School Food

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Off the Map: Extracurricular School Food

Open Campus Lunch
B Y M A R LO R. M IUR A , M A, JD

PU BL IC H E A LT H A DVOC AC Y I NST IT U T E

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

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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...
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