Students in Brampton, Ontario took to YouTube to protest their school's policy banning all junk food from the cafeteria. Brian Baah and Samuel Battista, both members of the student council at the St. Thomas Aquinas school, produced a video featuring student interviews interspersed with snippets of speeches given by famous personalities and scenes from the student life. The intent of the project was to protest what the students view as excessively restrictive policy adopted by the school.
The Healthy Food for Healthy Schools Act prohibits Ontario's school cafeterias and vending machines from selling foods laden with calories, fats and sugar. Only nutritious meals and snacks are allowed.
Battista said that means only drinking diet pop, not being able to buy chips, French fries or chocolate and cramming for tests without coffee.
Battista's main contention with the rule is that it doesn't actually do anything to promote healthy eating. He feels that if the administrators and lawmakers were really serious about making students healthier, they wouldn't have chosen to forbid bad food by fiat, but instead introduced lessons on nutrition and expanded the physical education classes. As it stands, students are not taught how to make good decision about food and exercise, instead skipping the bland food at the cafeteria to grab high-calorie meals at a pizza joint nearby.
"This is about choice," he said. "We don't want to abandon a healthy lifestyle. Myself and Brian are pretty active individuals. But when students go into the cafeteria and they feel they have no choice, they feel undermined, they feel inadequate."
Simply taking sugary, fatty snacks out of cafeterias without proper education about nutrition and healthy lifestyles, "doesn't make sense," Battista said.
There are clear indication that the video and its message have struck a chord with Battista's and Baah's classmates. Since it was posted this weekend, it has already accumulated over 7,000 views and has spawned discussions on social networks like Twitter and Facebook. Most notably, one of the province's Progressive Conservative leaders, Tim Hudak, weighed in on the video in a tweet.
One can summon up some sympathy for the school, however, as more and more educators are coming under increased pressure to do something about the raging childhood obesity epidemic. Improving the nutritional quality of school lunches seems like a common-sense and moderate approach compared to some others adopted by schools around the world, and especially in the U.S.
The Parkway school district in Missouri, for example, has launched a program to fit school children classified as obese with fitness monitors that will track their physical activity, heart rate, caloric intake and even sleep patterns.
The Polar Active monitors will first be used on students during their gym classes this spring and then, if they work out to be successful, 24/7 after that. Teachers will be able to access the data collected via PolarGoFit.com – where they can then view, analyze, and evaluate their students' progress.