Saturday, 15 September 2007

Quebec to eliminate junk food in schools

Here's a piece from the Canadian Press from the other day. Let's hope the rest of the country can follow the lead of Quebec, BC and Nova Scotia ...

Quebec to eliminate junk food in schools

MONTREAL -- French fries, soft drinks and other types of junk food will soon be gone from Quebec schools as the province joins other jurisdictions in Canada taking aim at childhood obesity.

Premier Jean Charest announced Friday that food with little nutritional value will stop being offered in pre-, elementary and high schools starting in January 2008.
The policy is already being implemented in many school across the province, which Charest acknowledged will help the policy gain traction.

"Many schools and school boards have preceded us in this policy,'' he said while announcing the policy at a local school. "We're not starting from zero today.''

School vending machines will have their sugary sweets replaced by healthier fare, such as yogurt, fruits and juice. Quebec's education minister said the government's policy should have an impact on students' performance.

"A child who is well fed, that has a balanced diet, increases their capacity to concentrate, increases their intellectual capacity to absorb information and certainly improves their memory,'' said Michelle Courchesne.

But Charest also pointed out that the policy has its limits, given that 80 per cent of students bring a lunch from home. Charest said in order to attack what he called an obesity problem, schools not only have to offer healthy food and exercise but parents need information to make the right choices for their children. The premier also moved to correct the perception that cutting junk food from the province's schools will come at a cost.

"It's not true that it costs more,'' Charest said.

However, officials with Quebec's Education Department admitted that the healthier options may cost slightly more in certain cases, parents have expressed their willingness to take the hit for the sake of their child's diet. The Liberal government will add $11 million to an existing $5-million program to allow schools to develop programs for exercise and healthy food choices.

Schools in British Columbia and Nova Scotia are among those to have already instituted similar policies.

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