New law targets unhealthy foods on school campuses

(Photo: Jessica Wuensch)

(Photo: Jessica Wuensch)

Say goodbye to junk food and hello to nutrition. Junk foods around school campuses will be practically eliminated in Ohio due to Senate Bill 210, which went into effect on July 1, 2011.

This new state law affects most food-related aspects on school campuses, including vending machines, extracurricular activities such as fundraisers and bake sales, cafeterias and school bookstores.

Some students are throwing a fit over the new law, while others are glad Kettering and other schools in Ohio are finally scaling back unhealthy food.

Most of the foods that have been eliminated from cafeterias are those with high caloric content. Reducing sugar and fat amounts also plays a part in the Kettering School District’s goal for the new cafeteria menus. This means students will see an increase in juices and snacks that have reduced sugar and fat.

Louise Easterly, supervisor of Food & Nutrition in the Kettering Schools, determines how the foods are selected and what can and cannot enter the cafeteria. Easterly refers to the Healthier Generation website to determine what foods may enter the schools. The website also has a food calculator to determine whether some snacks are acceptable or not. (Click HERE to see the calculator.)

“Examples of foods that were eliminated include 20-ounce beverages that have more than 10 calories, such as Gatorade, iced tea and lemonade, SunChips, popcorn, Rice Krispie bars, Cheez-Its, pretzels in large bags, and ice cream that is too high in fat,” said Easterly.

Eliminating these foods does not, however, mean eliminating all snacks. Junk foods have been replaced with new snacks and beverages, such as reduced-sugar fruit snacks, whole-grain cookies, low-fat ice cream and flavored Chex Party Mix.

Easterly believes the new law will encourage students to eat healthier and stay fit, but she recognizes it will limit the variety of snack choices for students.

“The purpose of the law is to eliminate the availability of snack foods in schools that don’t provide much nutritional value. We hope it provides exposure to students as to what healthy snack choices are. We also hope to provide enough variety of snack choices so that there is little impact to the students. However, the variety of choices is still limited,” said Easterly.

However, even some junk-food lovers think the revamped menu is a good idea overall.

“Of course I love eating junk food, but I guess it’s a great way to motivate students to lead a healthier lifestyle,” said senior Vinny Diano.

Fairmont seniors who work in the Off the Shelf bookstore, which sells gum and other candy during lunch, haven’t noticed many changes in the items they sell, but they do think it will be beneficial for students when the changes go into effect.

“I think it’s great that this new law is being passed,” said senior Nicole Manzo. “It’s very important to stay in shape. Taking out candies with high amounts of sugars will probably motivate students to eat healthier.”

One Fairmont student thinks the gum and candy sold in the bookstore is perfectly fine for students and isn’t extremely unhealthy.

“We sell sugar-free gum, and the only types of candy we sell are Mentos and Jolly Rancher chews,” said senior Vince Sant. “No candy bars are sold in the bookstore that would contain a lot of sugar; I personally think that the items in here are fine for students to purchase, because they don’t contain high amounts of sugar.”

Marketing teacher Robin Holweger, who supervises the bookstore, said she doesn’t expect the law to have much impact. “The law hasn’t seemed to affect the bookstore much, because most of the gum and mints we sell are 90 percent sugar-free.”

Though many are unaware of the new law, some are still enthused that it has brought in more tasty meals that have nutritional value. Fairmont junior Caroline Grogan usually buys her lunch at school but doesn’t always want to purchase cafeteria food after eyeing the choices. She says this is starting to change as the choices become more nutritious.

“When lunch time comes around, I’m always starving, so I will usually grab whatever they are serving that day. I have started to notice that the snacks that are served in the in the cafeteria line are limited and more nutritious; I love how it adds more nutritional value to my lunch,” said Grogan.

Some students agree with Grogan and like the idea of changes to the school menu.

“I often pack my lunch just because I don’t like what is served in the cafeteria, but I may start buying my lunch since there will be healthier foods served,” said Fairmont sophomore Andy Kremer.

But everyone at Fairmont isn’t so enthused about the changes.

“I don’t like whole wheat food, which is what the cafeteria sells now, so I try to avoid buying my lunch as much as possible,” said freshman Sam Barton.

The law has prompted other schools to re-examine the food they sell. Senior Kenzie Dorman hasn’t noticed many changes in nutrition at Fairmont but has seen some strict changes at another school.

“I go to Centerville for my Exercise Science class,” she said. “They only sell nutritional snacks in their bookstore and will not allow fundraisers that sell foods with high sugar content before or after school. I haven’t noticed many strict changes like this at Fairmont, but I’m hoping that there will soon be some changes around the campus.”

Fundraisers at Fairmont — such as bake sales, for example — are banned, but only if they take place during school hours. “Food that is not permitted under the new state law may only be sold before or after school, but not during,” said Andrea Hale, Fairmont’s Food & Nutrition manager.

Even though some students don’t seem to notice a change, the Fairmont lunch ladies have seen a difference in the snacks being sold.

“I have definitely noticed changes; snacks with high sugars are not sold in the snack lines and everything is now all whole-grain food,” said Fairmont lunch lady Kim Hensley.