Peter Shawn Taylor has switched his attention from fighting against light rail transit to weighter issues such as the Ontario government’s new school food policy. And so too shall I. His column which appeared in the Waterloo Region Record on May 19 seems to be based upon a column that appeared earlier in Maclean’s (where he is an editor).

Taylor is concerned because the new policy means an end to fries and other junk foods in high school cafeterias. Teenage french fry lovers don’t need to fear though since Taylor comes to their defence against the tyrannical fascists known as healthy food advocates.

Might as well put a McDonald’s inside the school he says to save the kids the hassle of crossing the road when the weather is bad.  While we’re at it Peter, we could also provide a place teens to practice all of their vices so that no one needs to get their hair wet.

Or maybe there’s a reason why high schools have limits on what is considered acceptable behaviour? Maybe it’s also possible that high schools have a moral responsibility to teach our kids healthy habits to last a lifetime?

If Taylor had used his fact-finding trip with another conclusion in mind, he would have seen before him in the classroom evidence of the rising epidemic of childhood obesity. And if he looked around him, he’d see that as a society too many of us are overweight or obese. As a taxpayer in favour of sensible solutions, you would think that Taylor would be all in favour of taking action to prevent the significant health care costs we pay as a result–costs that continue to rise. As a society, we must act.

But no, he wants to save the fries. Add some variety–and cheese–to the menu if you want to feel better about what the kids aren’t buying he says.

The stats tell a different story:

  • In 2004, the overweight rate for this age group was 18% and 8% were obese—a combined rate of 26%. Up from 15% in 1978/79. (Eatright Ontario)
  • The proportion of teen boys, between the ages of 15 and 19, classified as overweight or obese rose from 14 per cent in 1981 to 31 per cent in 2009. The number of teen girls classified as overweight or obese rose from 14 per cent to 25 per cent. (Canadian Health Measures Survey)
  • For both teen boys and girls, the proportion whose waist circumference measurement put them at increased risk of health problems more than tripled. (Canadian Health Measures Survey)
  • And the problem only gets worse as children become adults. Statistics indicate that 75% of obese children will be obese adults. Across Canada, 59% of the adult population is considered to be overweight (36%) or obese (23%). (Ontario Medical Association)

No wonder that Ontario is moving to ensure our kids are presented with healthy choices in school. The Ontario Society of Nutrition Professionals in Public Health (OSNPPH) and the Ontario Public Health Association (OPHA) agree with the Ministry of Education’s policy.

Sure the kids can still go across the road and get the cheap junk food. If nothing else, it forces them to get some exercise and fresh air. But maybe just maybe, we can begin to turn the corner to a healthier society–and curb our health care costs.

2 thoughts on “Save the fries?

  1. Two observations: The fries in my highschool weren’t even very good. And a McDonalds and a Tim Hortons have opened two blocks from my highschool in the time since I went there.

    1. You’re right. Even now kids are able to go off school property and make poor food choices–even if they have junk food at school. But I still think it’s appropriate for schools to model and encourage healthy eating.

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