Call to Action: Seattle Public Schools seeks to relax nutrition standards
It has been over a week since the Seattle Times ran an article announcing that the district was planning on relaxing a ban on junk food in high schools. In that time, the district received nationwide attention from NPR to the Today Show~ attention that was, for the most part, very negative. This week, I was able to connect with Teresa Wippel in the Communications Department at the District to get the district’s official statement:A recent Seattle Times article incorrectly implied that Seattle Public Schools is relaxing its policy against “junk food.” We want to set the record straight and provide an accurate account of this issue. Student representatives from our high schools met with the school board during a work session last month to talk about their desire to have additional flexibility in the types of food sold during the school day. The students did NOT ask for junk food to be put back in school vending machines. They asked that the restriction on beverage size – now 12 ounces – be changed to 20 ounces to accommodate the sale of Vitamin Water, which is very popular with students and can’t currently be sold on campus. They also asked that we follow current state nutritional standards, which would give students some additional flexibility in what could be served in on-campus, student-run stores. One example would be increasing the allowable fat percentage out of total calories from 30 percent to 35 percent so that hummus can be sold in on-campus student-run stores.
There is no date set yet for formally introducing a revised policy for board consideration; however discussions are ongoing at committee meetings and board work sessions.
- Because of our current policy, students are regularly going to nearby mini marts for nutritionally questionable snack options. Our goal is to come up with a policy that balances the need to support student programs with maintaining nutritional standards that enhance student learning. We’d rather see students buy reasonably healthy products in student vending machines than junk food off campus.
We are committed to working with our local stakeholders, including Treeswing, to ensure that students continue to have nutritious food available to them during the school day.
Treeswing will continue to advocate to keep the current nutrition standards strong. Data from the Healthy Youth Survey (2010) shows that soda consumption is down since the policies first passed AND that the incidence of overweight is stabilizing for most students (while rates increase nationwide) and declining in 10th graders. The policies are working!
While Vitamin Water sound innocuous, a 20 oz container contains 32 grams of sugar (a Coke has 39 grams of sugar)! The idea of hummus is a good one, as long as the variety of hummus meets the current fat requirements and there is no conflict with what is being sold in the cafeteria.
I disagree that the current nutrition policies have much to do with students leaving campus.
1) Students will always leave campus for lunch as long as campuses are open. It is the cool thing to do.
2) There ARE healthy food options on campus. School lunches now serve grab and go salads and sandwiches very popular with teens. The district is currently working with local chef’s to develop more menu items featuring fresh and local foods. Nutrition Service has developed a a 16 page list of items that students groups can sell- including popular items like Luna Bars and Clif Bars. This list is updated regularly, and always available when requested from the district’s acting director, Wendy Weyer. The department is also willing to review items that are not on the list but meet the standards, like Skinny Cow ice cream sandwiches (an item that student groups in other district’s are making a ‘killing on’). Student groups need to work WITH nutrition service, rather than going around them directly to the school board.
With 30% of youth struggling with overweight and obesity, this is not the time for Seattle Public Schools relax nutrition standards so that student stores can make more money. We appreciate that student stores need funding, however there ARE ways for vending machines and student stores to be profitable under Seattle School District’s current model nutrition policies.
In the next few months, Treeswing will work with other community partners to fight relaxing the nutrition policy and to address healthy fundraising in schools. We are currently developing Healthy Fundraising workshops (stay tuned for updates). Many schools and school districts have made the transition from unhealthy to healthy foods without losing revenue- you just have to TRY!
What YOU can do:
- If you live in Seattle, call, email or visit your school board member with the message that “Seattle School District should not place profit above student health.” The names, emails and phone numbers of the school board members are HERE.
- Speak at a school board meeting. The next meeting is Wednesday, January 4 from 6:00-9:00pm. Sign ups start on Monday, January 2 at 8am. Please follow this LINK for instructions on how to sign up.
- Share your thoughts, ideas and solutions on our BLOG.
- We are currently seeking funding for our Healthy Fundraising Workshops. Please contact us if your organization would like to sponsor these efforts or make an individual donation. THANKS!
Resources on Healthy Fundraising
- Healthy fundraising- Resources from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation
- School Fundraising Can Be Healthy and Profitable-Guidebook from Center for Science in the Public Interest
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