Input Needed for New School Food Policy

Parents, schools, nutritionists and others will have an opportunity to contribute to the province’s new policy that will see healthier foods and beverages in our children’s schools.

The Comprehensive Food and Nutrition Policy for Nova Scotia Public Schools will increase student and staff access to — and enjoyment of — health-promoting, safe and affordable food and beverages, being served and sold in school cafeterias.

“Children and youths need healthy foods to learn, to grow and to develop into healthy productive adults,” said Education Minister Jamie Muir. “Schools, parents, the food service industry, government and society all have important roles. The new policy will help all of us to work together to ensure healthy choices are the easy choices for students.”

The draft policy was written over the past year by a committee led by the Department of Education. The committee also included representatives of Nova Scotia Health Promotion, the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, each school board, Public Health, and many other key organizations. The policy is based on a survey of school board program directors and principals from elementary, junior and senior high schools. It examined current situations, issues and potential opportunities for improvements related to food choices in schools.

The province is seeking additional input on the draft policy from schools, parents, nutritionists and all those who will be making, or will be affected, by the proposed changes. Once input is received and reviewed, the policy will be finalized and implemented during the 2005-06 school year.

“Healthy food choices need to be available and accessible in all places where children live, learn and play and that’s why this group came together — to make that happen,” said Health Promotion Minister Rodney MacDonald. “Thanks to the dedication of government, school boards and all involved, this policy will make a significant contribution to the health of Nova Scotian children.”

Some of the policy’s proposed changes to support healthy food choices in schools include:

— standards for foods and beverages served and sold in school cafeterias;
— promotion of nutrition education in the curriculum;
— tools for parents to help their children eat a balanced diet;
— appropriate pricing to ensure foods and beverages are accessible;
— student involvement in planning menus;
— introducing healthy choices in vending machines and fund raising.

A Sept. 13 report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information showed that children who buy their lunch at school are more likely to be overweight.

“The research clearly points to the fact that the food that’s available in schools has an impact on rates of obesity,” said Mr. Muir. “We appreciate that there will be some concerns from schools and others about the prospect of introducing healthy options in vending machines and fund raising. That’s one of the reasons the consultation is critical, so parents and school administrators can have input and understand the rationale for the policy and how it will bring healthier food options to students at school.”

Schools will have time to implement the final policy. They will need to examine what changes they will need to make in relation to the proposed policy and how to go about making those changes.

The draft policy and feedback form can be found on the Department of Education’s website at http://ednet.ns.ca/healthy_eating/ and on Nova Scotia Health Promotion’s website at www.gov.ns.ca/ohp/healthyeating.html .

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