by Jack Minor –
Parents attending a parent-teacher organization meeting at Scott elementary school received some shocking news from the district, sweets of any kind are no longer permitted for the majority of students.
Jenna Raymond, with the district 6 nutrition department, told the group of new stricter rules regarding what foods would and would not be permitted under new federal guidelines.
Beginning in November, new guidelines will require that all foods served on the K-8 campuses meet strict guidelines in regards to the total calorie count. Excluding nuts or seeds, no more than 30 percent of the total calories can come from fat.
Saturated fat, with the exception of reduced fat cheeses, eggs and nut butters are restricted to 10 percent of the total calorie count, and no more than 35 percent of the total weight, excluding foods and vegetables is composed of sugar.
Anita Colwell, a Scott parent, told Raymond the district was going too far in its desire for nutrition. “Last year my kids loved eating here, but this year they do not want to touch the cafeteria food because it tastes so awful.”
Several other parents agreed, saying often food is simply thrown away because children do not want to eat it.
While it is one thing for the district to enforce these regulations in the cafeterias and vending machines, Raymond stated the restrictions were going to go much farther.
“Fundraisers held at the school are no longer allowed to include food items of any kind,” she said. “Rewards for children are to include gifts such as erasers and pencils.”
However, jaws dropped when she stated the restrictions also applied to fundraisers held outside of the school.
“The only food items allowed to be sold for these types of fundraisers are those that meet the nutritional guidelines.”
She said this would include the traditional fundraisers that many schools have done in the fall where students sell cookie dough and other sweets. “Candy bar sales of any kind are also out as a fundraising event.”
In February the district announced that with the exception of the high schools, soda is banned from all of the cafeterias. At the time, Jeremy West, Nutrition Services director for the district, said, “Parents and students can still choose to consume soda during their time in the cafeteria,” he said. “We are simply trying to create a culture that gears students toward making healthy beverage choices.”
According to Raymond, that is no longer the case. “If teachers see a student drinking a soda they are to inform them they are not allowed to drink it in the cafeteria or on campus.”
A parent asked if the rule applied to diet sodas as well since they had no sugar as compared to fruit juice which has a high amount of sugar.
“The American Association of Pediatrics has said that around 4 oz. of fruit juice is perfectly healthy for your children, and that is healthier than diet soda,” she answered.
Raymond told the parents that the new nutrition requirements also applied to all class parties whether it is a birthday, Christmas or Valentine’s Day party.
This means that all cakes, cupcakes, and cookies are out. When asked if there were any exceptions to the rule such as a Christmas party she said cakes were not necessarily ruled out.
“If the cake or cupcakes were to meet the nutritional standards they would be fine,” she said. “We have a recipe we use in the district that uses black beans and the kids love it.”
Colwell expressed concern about the new rules saying the district was basically being food Nazis. “I understand having restrictions on things such as nuts for those who have allergies, but what gives the district the right to dictate to me what I can and cannot put in my child’s lunch?”
The path that led to the new regulations began in 2005 when the federal government mandated the district form the Student Wellness Committee. Formation of the committee was a requirement as part of the re-authorization of the National School Lunch Program by the USDA.
Under the Obama administration, the federal government has put increasing pressure on schools and food manufacturers to offer healthier choices.
As part of the implementation of Obamacare, the President signed an executive order in 2010 calling for “behavior modification” of all citizens.
The executive order called for the creation of the National Prevention, Health Promotion, and Public Health Council which was tasked with providing recommendations to Congress on how to achieve health promotion and public health goals, including the reduction of tobacco use, sedentary behavior, and poor nutrition.
The order called for a report io contain a list of what are deemed national priorities on health promotion to address “lifestyle behavior modification” to include among other things, appropriate exercise and proper nutrition.
Following the issuance of the order, the government began taking steps to “persuade” companies to offer alternatives that the government feels would be better choices for people.
Last year, the Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children recommended that the food industry develop advertising and marketing principles to encourage children to choose healthy foods and minimize consumption of foods with little nutritional value such as hamburgers and cereals with a high sugar content by 2016.
Their purpose, according to the report, is to “guide the industry in determining which foods would be appropriate and desirable to market to children to encourage a healthful diet and which foods industry should voluntarily refrain from marketing to children.”
In announcing the report the government says the proposed principles are voluntary and do not call for government regulation of food marketing. Critics point out the government has other methods to encourage companies to “voluntarily” adopt the guidelines such as making bidding on government contracts conditional on compliance with the principles.
Also last year, at the urging of first lady Michelle Obama with her “Let’s Move” initiative, Wal-Mart agreed to change its product offering to reduce the number of high fat items they sell.
Wal-Mart issued a statement saying it will implement a Nutrition Charter which contains five key elements. The first goal involves reformulating thousands of packaged food items currently sold. The changes will involve reducing sodium by 25 percent, sugar by 10 percent and removing transfats.
The company says it will also reduce prices on fruits and vegetables and develop a “healthy seal” to help consumers identify health products. Another element involves Wal-Mart making $2 billion in contributions to nutrition programs helping to educate consumers about healthier food choices.
Partnership for a Healthier America will be evaluating and monitoring Wal-Mart’s progress on these goals.
Michelle Obama defended herself against critics who say her campaign is, “big government at work,” saying obesity adds as much as $150 billion to health care costs.
She has also called upon restaurants to change their menus. The proposed changes would reduce portion sizes and offer fruits and vegetables in lieu of french fries. Other changes supported by Michelle Obama would replace menus containing macaroni and cheese, hamburgers and chicken fingers with other healthier alternatives.