ABOVE: Etobicoke school brings in ban on junk food. Peter Kim reports.
TORONTO – No candy, no pop and no chocolate bars; those are the new lunchtime rules in place at James S. Bell Junior Middle School in Toronto.
The middle school is one of Toronto District School Board’s (TDSB) sports and wellness academies. As part of that mandate, the Etobicoke school is responsible for promoting healthy eating among its student population of almost 400 kids.
To do that, the school administration, along with the parent council, has decided to ban children certain food items as part of their lunch.
“What we decided was as a group we were really going to focus of eliminating chocolate, candy and pop from the diets of our students while they were at school,” Principal John Currie said in an interview Thursday. “To be completely honest with you, everyone is 100 per cent on board. We’ve had no issues whatsoever.”
But why draw the line at pop, candy and chocolate bars? What about chocolate covered granola bars that are billed as healthy but may contain just as much sugar? Well, Currie said, there is a gray area.
“We’re not that crazy with what we’re doing at the school,” he said. “That’s an excellent example, with a chocolate covered granola bar, that’s something we would encourage students to bring every once in a while. So that’s something we call an ‘every once in a while food.’
The initiative is an attempt to get kids eating healthier. Sielen Raoufi, a registered dietitian with Toronto Public Health (TPH) claimed bans don’t always work in changing eating habits.
The move by James S. Bell middle school is just part of a larger trend throughout Ontario of schools moving towards healthier lunches. In 2010, the Ontario government, as part of the new School Food and Beverage Policy, has permitted the sale of some “junk foods” within the school.
Raoufi said children should be taught to avoid foods high in added sugars and low in nutrients.
“Children, youth are consuming too many foods that are high in sugar, salt and fat,” she said. “So it tends to be the foods that are the most in those and fewer in nutrients that are the problem.”
– With files from Peter Kim