A Toronto elementary school is trying to encourage its students to live a healthy lifestyle by clamping down on the contents of their lunch bags.
James S. Bell Middle School, located in the city’s southwest end, has implemented a food policy that bans students from eating chocolate, candy and pop while at school. Instead, students are asked to bring only fresh, healthy foods in their packed lunches.
There are some exceptions around the holidays, and food items like potato chips and granola bars are allowed, but not as an everyday snack.
“If we do find something like a box of Smarties or a KitKat bar … we will just kindly ask the student to take it home,” school principal John Currie said in an interview with CTV News.
Parents helped create the rules last year to encourage students to eat healthier.
“As long as they’re thinking about it and it’s a focus of conversation, then I think that’s half the battle,” said Currie.
School boards across the country have already taken steps in recent years to limit access to junk food in schools, by banning the sale of junk food and sugary drinks in vending machines and cafeterias.
In 2010, the Ontario government banned the selling of deep-fried French fries, junk food and pop in elementary schools.
Despite the bans, childhood obesity rates appear to be increasing. In Canada, the rate currently stands at 30 per cent, and is expected to more than double by 2040.
Many parents are happy to abide by the school rule.
“Hopefully that’s going to help parents to think twice and start to question why do they buy all that stuff,” one parent told CTV.
Still, not everyone is behind the idea to cut sweets from student lunch bags.
Food and Consumer Products of Canada says it supports a parent’s right to choose which foods are appropriate for their families.
Some parents say the school ban is overstepping.
“They don’t know what my kids like, it is hard enough to make what your kids are going to actually eat,” said one mother.
While most provinces have policies regulating what food and beverages are sold in schools, there is no sweeping plan to extend those restrictions to packed lunches.
Instead, the decision is left to individual schools and parents.
With a report from CTV News’ Peter Akman