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Health Unit backs healthy foods in schools legislation

SIMCOE, ON, DEC. 14, 2007 – The province’s proposed legislation to ban junk food in schools is welcome legislation that will target child obesity and very likely improve academic skills, says the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit.

“Kids need to eat well in order to grow and develop properly, but many kids today aren’t getting the nutrition their bodies need,” said Public Health Dietitian Kathy Page. “About 50 per cent of students in Haldimand and Norfolk schools do not get the daily recommended amount of vegetables and fruit, and one-third of students do not get enough milk and milk alternatives.”

Page said poor eating habits are contributing to obesity among adolescents in Canada.

“Studies show that 28 per cent of Canadian children are eating French fries two or more times a week.”

The Ontario government is in the process of passing a bill to regulate the trans fat content of all food and beverages sold in school cafeterias and vending machines. The new law would also give the Minister of Education power to create policies, guidelines and regulations governing nutritional standards for all food and beverages provided on board property, school premises or in connection with a school-related activity.

Some school officials have expressed concern about the loss of revenue that could result to schools if students choose to go elsewhere for junk food. While sympathetic to schools’ need for revenue, Page said students’ health must take precedence and she is hopeful other sources of revenue can be found. A healthy food policy could actually be one of those sources, she noted.

“When similar legislation was passed in the United States, school food service revenues actually increased at the majority of schools. Students purchased fewer snack foods and sweetened beverages, but bought more meals, which increased revenues.”

Page noted that schools are “an important setting for helping children and youth develop healthy ways of living. To set the proper example at an early stage, we need to improve the nutritional value of foods and beverages in our schools.”

Good food and good grades often go together, Page explained.

“Students who are well nourished perform better academically and are more ready to learn. Creating a healthy school nutrition environment involves several elements, such as food and nutrition policies to support healthy eating.”

Under provincial legislation, the Health Unit is mandated to work with school boards and schools to promote healthy food policies and supportive environments.

“We promote making the healthy choice the easy choice,” Page said.

Media Contact:
Kathy Page
Public Health Dietitian
Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit
519-426-6170 Ext. 3247 or 905-318-6623

or Jill Steen
Program Coordinator
Population Health
Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit
(519) 426-6170 Ext. 3238 or 905-318-6623