In BC, School Food Means Apples Not Deep Fryers

School Salad BarOne of my all-time favourite things at my children’s school has been the hot lunch program. It made for happy, stress-free mornings. I felt good leaving lunchtime in the hands of the school district, with the assurance that they were following the Guidelines for Food and Beverages Sales in BC Schools (the Guidelines). I know that the food on offer, while not always my kids’ favourite, was vetted to ensure that it met their nutritional needs – with not too much salt, fat or sugar and a decent dose of fresh fruits and veggies. The school lunch nightmare described by Jamie Oliver with fries as a vegetable was not on the table at my Vancouver school.

Providing healthy choices to BC school children is not only a family quandary, it’s one faced by school districts, Parent Advisory Councils (PACs) and individual school programs. The revised Guidelines were launched last week to make it easier for our schools to ensure that what they are feeding children is nutritious as well as delicious.

Some key changes are highlighted in a recent Healthy Families BC blog:

Key changes include:
• new fact sheets and an At-a-Glance brochure to help schools use the Guidelines
• a new and improved way to score freshly made food using ‘the Checklist’
• revised nutrient criteria that continue to reduce the amount of sugar, sodium and fat in the food and beverages sold to students
• a complete makeover that makes the Guidelines much easier to use and understand

The guidelines are put together by our dedicated provincial nutritionists and dietitians working on best evidence. When the first set of School Food Guidelines were launched, BCAHL funded Dietitians of Canada, BC Region to make it easier for schools to implement them. What foods were healthy and how would busy school districts know? They created the Brand Name Food List website and offered free support by phone (dial 811) and email through registered dietitians at HealthLink BC, both of which are still in place today, supported by Healthy Families BC.

The Guidelines now cover all foods sold to kids in our schools, whether through vending machines, in the high schools or district hot lunch programs. There is also advice for Parent Advisory Councils on healthier ways to fundraise and my favourite go-to resource Bake Better Bites, which is a compilation of recipes that are nutritious, but still yummy enough to be chosen first at the bake sale.

So let’s hear it for healthy food in our schools! The Guidelines help us all make better choices for our families. Children that are fuelled by healthy food, think better, play better and study better. Think about how you feel when you’ve skipped lunch or eaten fries for dinner. On that note, I will head back with new energy to my family’s squabbles over the merits of tuna or cheese sandwiches, peppers or cucumbers, and who took the last cheese string – because discussions about healthy choices are worth having.

Samantha Hartley-Folz
Manager, Policy and Programs
January 2014

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