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Guest post: The Great Nova Scotia Cake Walk Debacle…Part Two?

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Today’s blog post was kindly contributed by dietitian-in-training Sarah Anstey. Thanks Sarah!

The Great Nova Scotia Cake Walk Debacle…Part Two?

It’s that time of year again! Cakes are coming out of the oven, hot dogs are coming out of their packages, and parents are coming out of the woodwork armed with an embarrassingly long list of reasons why their little darlings deserve a treat. You guessed it! It’s spring fling season in Nova Scotia.

The spring fling is a traditional year-end fundraising event held at many Nova Scotia schools. In recent years, spring flings across the province have been the root of some controversy and this year has been no exception. Diana Chard blogged about “The Great Nova Scotia Cake Walk Debacle” last year and has asked me to write a guest post for her blog voicing my thoughts about this years article on the topic featured in the Chronicle Herald.

The focus of the article is how nutritionally void foods being served at school events and fundraisers go against the mission of the “health advocates who believe that schools should be safe havens from the constant barrage of junk food that children are faced with daily, and places where healthy eating is modeled and reinforced to promote life-long health”. The authors, a posse of concerned academics, point out the undeniable contrast between the Food and Nutrition Policy for Nova Scotia Public Schools and the foods that are provided at many school events.

I strongly believe that children should have access to affordable, socially acceptable, delicious, nutrient-rich foods while at school. I also believe in making “the healthy choice the easy choice”, as the Food and Nutrition Policy promotes, by eliminating access to highly processed convenience foods full of fat, salt, and sugar. However, I love cakewalks. I love ice cream. I love a burger or two in the summer. In a perfect world these foods would truly be “treats” and there would be no problem with having them in schools for special events. I think that by trying to bury these foods in red tape and paperwork our grand plans for long and healthy lives for our children will backfire and we are going to catapult these poor kids into a future of closet eating and shame.

My point is that we are fighting a Sisyphean battle. The war of the cake walks is laughable. It’s like finding a soggy cannoli in the worst bakery in town. Sometimes the entire bakery needs an overhaul. Don’t waste your time on a soggy cannoli! We have a global issue to tackle and the solution starts at home. It starts with educating our children about how to make healthy choices, how to grocery shop, how to budget for food, how to grow a vegetable, how to cook basic healthy meals.

I’m not looking to start a debate about the school food policy and have no interest in the politics attached to it. I won’t even begin to delve into the fact that the policy came into effect seven years ago, but no one has been able to figure out if cakewalks go against the policy or not…….seriously though, is the spring fling a “special function” or a “fundraiser”?

It makes me so sad to hear parents talk about how cake walks only happen once a year and how “everything is okay in moderation”. WAKE UP PEOPLE! Moderation no longer exists in our culture. Yes, cakewalks are special. Yes, they only happen once a year, but most children (and adults) are eating cake, fast food, and other nutrient poor foods on a daily basis. When the day comes when cake is actually a rare treat then I would gladly welcome a cakewalk in schools.

Thanks to Diana Chard for allowing me to voice my concerns on this issue.

Sarah Anstey

Dietetic Intern, Nova Scotia

@SarahAnstey7


3 Comments

The great Nova Scotia cake walk debacle

I was going to stay out of this cake debacle but I just can’t keep my mouth shut after reading this article in the Globe and Mail. Plus I just recently ranted about the problems with the Nova Scotia School Food and Beverage Policy. If you haven’t already heard about the latest, basically people are suddenly outraged that cake walks are not permitted as school fundraisers. Now, to be perfectly honest, I have fond memories of the year that I won the cake walk at my elementary school Fun Fair (not that I could eat it because I was allergic to wheat but that’s beside the point). I don’t see the harm in having a fundraiser like that once a year. The problem here is that these occasions have become increasingly frequent and every event/cafeteria/tuckshop in schools seems to come with a plethora of nutritionally void foods. Hence, the introduction of a nutrition policy in the public school system five years ago. Why, when this policy has supposedly been in effect since 2007, people are only just now getting outraged about the ban on cake walks seems ridiculous to me. Obviously the policy is not being upheld. I am disappointed by the reaction of Ramona Jennex, the NS Education Minister who said that cake walks are okay and not classified as fundraisers even though they’re raising funds for schools and fundraising through the sale of “junk” food is not permitted. Say what?? I’m even more disappointed by the reaction of parents and the public. Our public education system is in tatters. Teachers are being made to serve as glorified babysitters and the one thing that people muster up the energy to get worked up over is the right to hold a freaking cake walk??! What about the cutting of teaching positions? The loss of programs outside of the core such as art, music, enrichment, and special education? What about the fact that students are entering into university without the ability to spell, write a grammatically correct sentence, or complete assignments in a timely fashion? What about the fact that we do have an obesity epidemic and we should be teaching children healthy habits not just math and geography? Seriously people, priorities.