I originally posted this last January.
I’ve seen a number of news articles over the past week or two claiming that school food and beverage policies are a failure as they have not reduced childhood obesity. I find this attitude frustrating and disheartening. Let’s put aside the fact that these policies are usually flawed and not representative of the healthiest possible diets. Let’s also put aside the fact that it may be better to offer choices in school cafeterias and use product placement and promotions to make the healthier choices the easier choice. Now that we’ve put all of these issues aside, the point of school nutrition policies was not to reduce the collective weight of the student population. The point of school nutrition policies is to steer children towards life-long healthy eating habits. I don’t think that the success (or failure) of these policies can be determined until at least one generation has started school and graduated from school with a nutrition policy in place the entire time. Even then it will be difficult to measure the success of a nutrition policy as there are so many other factors at play in the environment over the course of the 12 years a child is in the public school system.
The second, and what I think is actually the more important reason for implementing school nutrition policies, is that schools should not be profiting from feeding children unhealthy foods and beverages. I think it’s shameful that the greatest opposition I’ve seen to school food and beverage policy implementation has been from school officials concerned that they will lose their funding. You see, cafeterias are a HUGE source of profit for schools, and if the kids start going down the street to get their fast food fixes at lunchtime then the school is going to have to figure out another way to make money. Selling students fries and pop is an easy money-maker.
I don’t think most of these school nutrition policies are fantastic successes but they’re at least a step in the right direction. Schools should not just be tasked with educating children about standard subjects such as history and math. Schools should also be educating children about healthy food choices and providing them with the skills to prepare foods on their own. Far too many students are becoming adults who are ill-equipped when it comes to basic life skills, and clearly the education system is failing at the things that it is actually teaching when approximately half of the Canadian population is illiterate! We need to overhaul the education system and start teaching students things that will keep them alive and healthy into their senior years.