April 19th

theresa albert - my friend in food


New School Food Rules Fall Short

Lunch Box for Adults

Ontario has some new school food rules that take effect in September. I’d be willing to bet my boots, no one is ready for them.  Each province has its own set of rules but Ontario seems to be the strictest.  There is no doubt, we have to do SOMETHING but is this it? The document raises more questions than answers for me. There seems to be some pushback over the fact that the rules also apply to school events and bake sales (but not food brought from home) instead of the global picture of the problem. Akkk, why is this so hard to do?

I read the whole document and a few things jumped out at me:


  1. 1. The memorandum says:
    1. “At the end of the 2010-11 school year, school boards will be required to attest that they will be in full compliance with this memorandum on September 1, 2011.”

Comment:  As any parent knows, you don’t establish a hurdle unless you are going to be there to check it.  It looks as if the public health department will be the “checkers”.  Is there enough of them? Do they have enough resources?

  1. The new guidelines require:
  • Sell Most (≥ 80%). Products in this category are the healthiest options and generally have higher levels of essential nutrients and lower amounts of fat, sugar, and/or sodium. They must make up at least 80 per cent of all food choices7 that are available for sale in all venues, through all programs, and at all events. The same requirement applies to beverage choices.8
  • Sell Less (≤ 20%). Products in this category may have slightly higher amounts of fat, sugar, and/or sodium than food and beverages in the “Sell Most” category. They must make up no more than 20 per cent of all food choices that are available for sale in all venues, through all programs, and at all events. The same requirement applies to beverage choices.
  • Not Permitted for Sale. Products in this category generally contain few or no essential nutrients and/or contain high amounts of fat, sugar, and/or sodium (e.g., deep-fried and other fried foods, confectionery). Food and beverages in this category may not be sold in schools.

Comment: This looks like a big loophole to me. We can limit the shelf space to “mostly healthy foods” but if they are more popular and sell out more often, they will be reordered more often.  Should this criterion be on all food choices sold?! If the 20% category sells out, will the other healthier items be purchased or will this just create a class system where the first in line (Bully? Cool kids? Kids with money?) get what they want and the others don’t.

I think we also have to acknowledge that by grade 7 many kids can go off property to buy the crap they want elsewhere.  The end result being that they are still at risk and the school loses money. How the heck do you solve that one?

  1. The Criteria used is food labels alone:

“To determine whether a specific product may be sold in schools, it is necessary to read the information on the food label – particularly the Nutrition Facts table and the ingredient list – and compare this information with the nutrition criteria.”

Comment: Food labels are flawed, period, the end.

  1. Implementation and monitoring:

“School boards are responsible for monitoring the implementation of this memorandum”

“School boards and schools are encouraged to continue to work with students, parents, school staff, community members, public health professionals, and food service providers to ensure that appropriate strategies are in place to implement this memorandum.”

Comment: The food service providers and Ontario Public Health professionals will become the gatekeepers as the boards are overextended and often contract out the cafeterias. Find the suppliers+convince them=make the cut.  This means that new products and smaller manufacturers who may be creating better product don’t even get a chance to get in the game.

We do need a system! And Ontario’s is tough…but is it tough enough? Too tough? Best we can do? Have other provinces done it better? I’d love your comments so I can keep digging…

Theresa Albert

Theresa Albert

I love food, try to watch my weight, know more than I want to about healthy living (sometimes I wish I knew less so I wouldn’t feel so guilty when I stumble), am a daughter, sister, friend, mom and wife who worries and scurries the meals onto the table. It is for all these reasons that I completed my nutrition, RNCP designation, wrote my book, hosted my Food Network show, consult with food companies to urge them to get it right (or at least better), constantly write about it, research it, all of this so I can cut through the nutrition and food “news” clutter. Happy to share with friends!


7 Responses

    May 16, 2011 at 3:14 pm Reply

    So… no more pizza lunch fundraisers? They brought in a huge amount of dough (pardon the pun) when my kids were in grade school and it was the one day a week I allowed them to “buy” lunch instead of bringing food from home.

      Theresa Albert
      May 19, 2011 at 1:57 pm Reply

      Apparently the pizza suppliers are “compliant” with the new rules. Although, if they tell the principal that they are, what’s he or she going to do? Believe them.

    Tanya Lemoine
    May 16, 2011 at 3:51 pm Reply

    In MB, we have provincial guidelines, but it is up to divisions (districts) to implement policy. My son’s school no longer has drink vending machines, as is the case in all schools that house students k-8 (I think). I have seen quite a few disgruntled parents when schools have implemented a «no cupcakes» ideal for children’s birthdays. I understand that parents want something special for their child, but with allergies and the sheer number of students in a class, it can amount to weekly treats on top of their regular food.

    May 16, 2011 at 4:03 pm Reply

    I think I am glad my daughter comes home at lunch time. Schools will be under such a pressure and will the gatekeepers really be watching closely I think not. I too think you will see that tiered thing happens, and forget the pizza lunches, popcorn/ bake sale quick and easy fundraisers. They will have to go out the door.

    May 19, 2011 at 1:46 pm Reply

    Right now my daughter’s school doesn’t have a caf. and only sells lunches once or twice a month. The options for these lunch fundraisers has really been elevated from when I was a kid – offering wraps, subs, shawarmas along with a small treat like a cookie. There are always vegetarian options as well.

    The thing I’m happiest about with my daughter’s school is their attention to the packed lunches that kids bring from home. Information about healthy foods is sent home at the start of the year – along with which foods are not allowed because of class room allergies. When a snack is brought (such as left over easter candies), the child is asked to save those for home and a reminder is sent to the parents to limit that kind of food. They have also brought in a garbage free day for lunches twice a week.

      Theresa Albert
      May 19, 2011 at 1:59 pm Reply

      Wow! Do some parents complain or do most like this system? I can imagine it would be pretty hard (though necessary) to send that note home!

    Harry Steel, RMT
    May 22, 2011 at 12:15 am Reply

    Sadly, our governments & politicians are more concerned with “showing concern”, that is “looking like they’re doing something positve” when all they are doing is instituting yet more legislation & bigger & bigger bureaucracies & rules, guidlines, & rather draconian approaches to some of these problems, & making things more expensive & difficult for parents & families.

    Kids these days are attending schools with more rules than there are for convicts or military recruits. Inspecting kids’ lunches?

    Despite all the news, articles & public concerns about nutrition, hgealth, lower sodium, less fat, sugar, MacDonald’s intorduces yet another “heart attack for a snack”, & bribe our kids with cheap plastic junk toys to harrass parents into taking them to these “Poison Pits”. Burger King re-introduced the “Angry Whopper” & deep fried butter & Mars bars are available to us all, along with poutine. This is a corporate driven food culture.

    Further, since most of this food is chock full of GMO, Genetically modified food stuffs, especially corn, & most especially corn syrup, all patented by MONSANTO, along with our so called “Organic Canola Oils” , also patented GMOs owned by MONSANTO, we are legislated into buying foods that we have no say in how they are produced, grown, packaged & modified. Rather than conform to Nature’s rules, Nature has been changed to conform with corporate needs.

    I have begun to grow my own “Victory Garden” this year, to try to supplement what I buy. I bake my own breads, cakes, pies & cookies. I fear I am no Martha Stewart, nor am I anywhere near perfect, but I make my best efforts to provide my two daughters with the best, healthiest foods I can.

    To me, the school boards & government regs & so on regarding this food culture are merely the tip of a much greater iceberg. That we enjoy Chilean strawberries in January or whenever is not sustainable. Our giant food producers are eroding at the small individual farmers to create mega farms. Since 2010, food prices worldwide have risen 40%. Galen Weston, who owns Loblaws is the 11th richest man on the planet. Mansanto sues any farmer who even through no fault & without any knowledge has some of their canola plants growing in a ditch NEAR their farms. That case is going to the Supreme Court of Canada this year. The defendant is an MP from Saskatchewan.

    Let’s enjoy our exotic fruits while we still can, before food imports become something exclusively consumed by the ultra wealthy. Oil prices will preclude me being able to buy mangosteens or rambutans. In my opinion the privatisation of energy, natural gas & hydro, that corporations & oil sheiks control our gas & oil, that corporations control our foods, & all either genetically modify what we eat or pollute the planet with their waste products tells me that the wrong people are in charge of these essential goods & services. Greed motivates these institutions, certainly not what is best for us, our children or our planet.

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