School food fight

The battle over healthier school meals is not unique to the United States.

There is an interesting battle going on between high school students and the government—and even among elected officials themselves—over whether the government has the right to dictate to students what they can eat. Two students have even taken the fight to YouTube, posting a video in which they interview fellow students about their food preferences and what they think about the government’s mandate on healthier food in school cafeterias.

But this particular drama isn’t being played out here in the United States. Instead, it’s happening in our neighbor to the north, Canada. In the wake of an edict by the Ontario provincial government banning junk food in schools, cafeterias are reportedly going bankrupt, students are decrying the loss of their “freedom of choice,” and provincial leaders are squabbling among themselves over whether the government has made the right move.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty is unapologetic. He told reporters last week that schools simply have to “be more creative” with menus to make the healthier food guidelines work.
“We put a man on the moon 40 years ago,” he was quoted in The National Post. “Don’t tell me that we can’t make healthy, delicious, tasty attractive food for teenagers in the province of Ontario in 2012.”

Personally, I find the political bickering to be the most interesting aspect of this “food fight.” Critics say the mandate was ill-conceived. Defenders say school districts simply aren’t trying hard enough. The peacemakers argue that the plan is a good one, but better education is needed to help students make informed decisions about their food choices. Students basically respond with, “let us eat whatever we want.”

And here in the United States, school foodservice professionals would like to say to their northern colleagues, “Welcome to our world.”

Watch one of the videos below.

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

George Washington University in Washington, D.C., is adding an additional $200 in dining dollars to each student's dining plan this fall, The GW Hatchet reports.

The boost comes just a year after the university switched to an open-format dining plan that allows students to spend their entire meal fund off campus; allowed venues include about 90 grocery stores and restaurants.

While students support the new plan, they are concerned about dining affordability. In conjunction with discounted meal deals that were implemented last semester, school officials hope the extra $200...

Ideas and Innovation
french press

While a French press isn’t a tool found in most noncommercial kitchens, operators might want to think twice about multiple uses for this fancy coffee maker. Staff at the Hard Rock Cafe are using the French press to muddle fruit and alcohol for their mixed drinks, while at Chicago bar Moneygun, bartenders use a French press to blend spices and tea for hot toddys.

Ideas and Innovation
student food tray

Stories of students who can’t pay for lunch being given a subpar meal or shamed for their debt have proliferated in recent years, and it’s not an uncommon problem. The SNA’s 2016 School Nutrition Operations Report found that about three-quarters of school districts had an unpaid student meal debt at the end of last school year, an increase from 71% of districts reporting debt in 2014.

Government has begun to take action. In April, the USDA issued new regulations mandating that schools implement unpaid meal policies by the start of the 2017-18 school year and clarifying that schools...

Ideas and Innovation
iris camera

Biometric payment technologies such as finger and palm scanning are slowly emerging in foodservice operations, including the University of Maryland’s transition last fall. But the future may be leaning toward a more hands-off approach.

George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., was looking to speed up its meal-swiping process alongside a new unlimited dining plan. Iris cameras , which take a photograph of an eye that is converted into data that cannot revert back to a photograph, won out.

Danny Anthes, senior manager of information technology, says two factors stood out in...

FSD Resources