What are your chil­dren ea­ting at school?

Vision (Canada) - - Collective - Community - ALEXIA MARSILLO alexia.marsillo@eap.on.ca

A recent stu­dy re­vea­led that chil­dren are not ea­ting en­ough nu­tri­tious food du­ring school hours, whe­ther it be from a lunch pa­cked from home or food from the school ca­fe­te­ria. The stu­dy ana­ly­zed da­ta from the 2004 Ca­na­dian Com­mu­ni­ty Health Sur­vey of over 4800 chil­dren aged from six to se­ven­teen. The da­ta is 13 years old, but pro­vides a so­lid foun­da­tion in de­ter­mi­ning chil­dren’s school-hour food consump­tion that will even­tual­ly be com­pa­red to the 2015 da­ta, soon to be avai­lable. Since 2004, all pro­vinces have ini­tia­ted gui­de­lines concer­ning food sold in schools, but are non-bin­ding gui­de­lines en­ough?

The stu­dy, done by Claire Tu­gault-La­fleur, a PhD can­di­date in the hu­man nu­tri­tion pro­gram at the Uni­ver­si­ty of British Co­lum­bia, is the first of its kind in com­pa­ring a child’s food in­take wi­thin school hours to non-school hours. The stu­dy used 11 key com­po­nents of a heal­thy diet to exa­mine the food and be­ve­rages chil­dren in­take bet­ween 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. The ave­rage score was 53.4 out of 100 on the heal­thy scale. The food groups with the lo­west scores were dark green ve­ge­tables, fruits, whole grains and milk and al­ter­na­tives.

Al­though the stu­dy does show a need for im­pro­ve­ment in this area of chil­dren’s’ health, pro­vinces have al­rea­dy ta­ken cer­tain steps in pro­vi­ding schools and school boards with die­ta­ry gui­de­lines. The On­ta­rio pro­vin­cial po­li­cy, PPM150 “School Food and Be­ve­rage Po­li­cy,” was is­sued in 2010 and states that 80 per cent of food ser­ved in schools should be part of the heal­thy food groups.

“Us, as die­ti­cians, have al­ways said that the ea­sier pro­cess would be to im­pose 100 per cent, this would make it ea­sier for schools to ma­nage if they are fol­lo­wing the gui­de­lines,” said Ly­sanne Tru­deau, pro­gram ma­na­ger with a fo­cus on nu­tri­tion and schools at the Eas­tern On­ta­rio Health Unit (EOHU). “There would no lon­ger be this grey area. A coo­kie is clear­ly not in the heal­thy ca­te­go­ries, so co­okies shouldn’t be ser­ved.” The Mi­nis­try is pre­sent­ly in the ear­ly stages of re­vam­ping its cur­rent po­li­cy, ho­we­ver no ti­me­line has been set on this pro­ject. Ac­cor­ding to Tru­deau, the Mi­nis­try usual­ly has a group of pro­vin­cial die­ti­cians at hand that pro­vide re­com­men­da­tions to the go­vern­ment.

Just as school boards and schools do not ac­tual­ly have any le­gal obli­ga­tion to fol­low the po­li­cy gui­de­lines set up by the go­vern­ment, the EOHU al­so does not have any man­date to fol­low up with school boards or to per­form any in-school food ins­pec­tions. “The Eas­tern On­ta­rio Health Unit, as well as the Leeds, Gren­ville and La­nark Dis­trict Health Unit, sets the gui­de­lines and pro­vides us with gui­dance on heal­thy schools and we fol­low them,” said Leah Fin­ley, exe­cu­tive as­sis­tant to the di­rec­tor of Edu­ca­tion at the Ca­tho­lic Dis­trict School Board of Eas­tern On­ta­rio (CDSBEO). CDSBEO al­so has their own board-wide po­li­cy on heal­thy foods for their hot lunch pro­vi­ders and sends news­let­ters to pa­rents en­cou­ra­ging heal­thy snacks du­ring school hours.

All four school boards in the re­gion fol­low the school lunch gui­de­lines pro­vi­ded to them by the health units and the Mi­nis­try, en­su­ring that 80 per cent of the food being sold in the ca­fe­te­rias is heal­thy. Evi­dent­ly, this does not in­clude the lunches chil­dren are brin­ging from home, lea­ving res­pon­si­bi­li­ty to pa­rents to make cer­tain their chil­dren Une étude ré­cente a ré­vé­lé que les en­fants ne mangent pas as­sez d’ali­ments nu­tri­tifs du­rant les heures sco­laires, que ce soit à par­tir d’un lunch em­bal­lé à la mai­son ou de nour­ri­ture à la ca­fé­té­ria. L›étude a ana­ly­sé les don­nées de l›En­quête sur la san­té dans les col­lec­ti­vi­tés ca­na­diennes de 2004, faite au­près de plus de 4800 en­fants âgés de six à 17 ans. Les don­nées sont vieilles de 13 ans mais consti­tuent une base so­lide pour dé­ter­mi­ner la consom­ma­tion ali­men­taire des en­fants à l›école, qui se­ra éven­tuel­le­ment com­pa­rée aux don­nées de 2015, bien­tôt dis­po­nibles. De­puis 2004, toutes les pro­vinces ont adop­té des lignes di­rec­trices con­cer­nant les ali­ments ven­dus dans les écoles, mais est-ce as­sez ? are ea­ting heal­thy du­ring school time. The On­ta­rio So­cie­ty of Nu­tri­tion Pro­fes­sio­nals in Pu­blic Health (OSNPPH) has set up pro­jects, most no­ta­bly a non-pro­fit pro­ject to schools, na­med BrightBites, which en­cou­rages class­rooms and in­di­vi­dual stu­dents to be in­vol­ved in their own health. “So­me­thing we have done at EOHU is part­ner up with the Cham­plain Car­dio­vas­cu­lar Di­sease Pre­ven­tion Net­work (CCPN) for a pro­gram cal­led Heal­thy Schools 20\20, which has gui­de­lines to help schools eva­luate lunches, the num­ber of fruits and ve­ge­tables that should be in­clu­ded and so on,” said Tru­deau.

The cor­re­la­tion bet­ween heal­thy ea­ting and lear­ning is a non-dis­pu­table and wel­les­ta­bli­shed fact – stu­dies show that stu­dents that are well nou­ri­shed have a si­gni­fi­cant­ly bet­ter chance at suc­cee­ding in school. The recent stu­dy that ana­ly­zed da­ta from 2004 de­mons­tra­ted a need for si­gni­fi­cant im­pro­ve­ment in Ca­na­dian chil­dren’s heal­thy food consump­tion du­ring school, ho­we­ver ma­ny more pro­grams and gui­de­lines have been in­tro­du­ced since then. The­re­fore, the real test on the coun­try’s im­pro­ve­ment re­gar­ding heal­thy lunches in schools will be shown once the more recent 2015 da­ta is re­lea­sed, and on­ly then will we know if these gui­de­lines and pro­grams are en­ough to en­sure chil­dren are ea­ting heal­thy.

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