Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Showing Signs of Better Regulation for School Cafeterias

Thanks to the blog School Food Policy, England schools are seeing better regulations on the food they serve their students. For fun, I thought I'd see how my hometown's school district stacks up...

In England...

- Schools must provide at least one portion of vegetables and at least one portion of fruit every day
- Fruits and vegetables must be provided at any school food outlet (cafeteria, student store, etc)
- Oily fish, such as salmon, must be offered at least once every three weeks
- Processed meat products are heavily restricted. The regulations establish four groups of meat products (hamburger meat, sausage/lunch meat, meat pies and shaped or coated meat products) and allows schools to serve no more than one item from each group every month.
- Sweets such as chocolate bars, chocolate-coated biscuits and cereal bars are banned in school lunches and in the rest of schools as well. Cakes and biscuits are allowed only as part of a lunchtime meal (and may not replace any other component of the meal). Chocolate in any form is banned, except for cocoa powder in dessert served following a lunchtime meal.
- In meals, sodium is limited to 500 mg in elementary schools and 714 mg in secondary schools.
- The only drinks allowed during the school day are water (which must be provided at meals), non-fat or low-fat milk, fruit juice, vegetable juice, plain soy, rice, oat or yogurt drinks, tea, coffee and low-calorie hot chocolate. No preservatives, flavorings, colorings or artificial sweeteners are allowed.

In Boerne...

-Veggies and Fruits: Most of the time, Boerne offers a fruit and vegetable serving every day. What is concerning is that some days, fruit is in the form of 100% juice, or things like steak fingers or pizza count as several food groups (meat, veggie, starch). The good news is that about 4 days a week, students are served an actual vegetable and an actual fruit (not juice or ketchup).

-Oily Fish: On the BISD menu for Aug 24- Sep 18, there is not one fish present (oily or otherwise). For shame.

-Processed meats: The first week on the calendar boasts 6 instances of a processed meat. Chickenburgers, steak fingers, turkey lunch meat, spaghetti meat sauce (counting as hamburger), and pepperoni grace the kids' plates. The following week is a bit better with 4 instances, one of them being a turkey corndog. The week after has 5 servings.

- Sweets: Luckily, dessert is not part of BISDs daily menu. Ice cream is served every Thursday, and there was another day that included a cookie. However, they do allow for cookies to be purchased on Mondays for $.50 and ice cream on Fridays for $.75.

All in all, Boerne isn't too awful. But keep in mind that Boerne is also a wealthier school district, and boasts a high parent-involvement with all things school-related. But there's still room for improvement. If all schools and the governing entities that regulate school lunches tried to implement three healthy new ideas, maybe our schools here will start to resemble those across the pond.

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