Ontario’s 2 million public school students will give up french fries and soda and eat more fruits and vegetables this fall, like it or not.
Under the province’s new PPM 150 School Food and Beverage Policy, as of Sept. 1, at least 80% of food sold in elementary and secondary schools includes fresh fruits and vegetables and other nutritious foods low in fat, sugar and sodium.
The new menu may include 20% of products with slightly higher amounts of fat, sugar and sodium, such as bagels and cheese. Deep-fried food, candy, soft drinks and any other foods that exceed the provincial government’s fat, sugar and sodium guidelines are no longer sold in school cafeterias or vending machines.
According to a government release, 28% of Ontario children ages 2-17 are overweight or obese, which costs the province’s health care system about $1.6 billion annually.
As well, less than half of kids 12-19 eat the recommended daily minimum of fruits and vegetables. Canada’s food guide recommends five servings for kids ages 4-8 and seven and eight servings, respectively, for children ages 14-18.
“Schools have an important role to play in helping students lead healthier lives, including teaching students the skills to make healthy choices and reinforcing those lessons through school practices,” said Ontario education minister Leona Dombrowsky.
Ontario joins British Columbia, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland, which have all implemented mandatory nutrition standards.