BC’s new School Food Guidelines: an attempt by bureaucrats to squeeze the joy out of our kids’ childhoods while stripping away parental choice

I am the parent of three school-aged kids and the president of our local elementary school Parent Advisory Council (PAC). Last night our PAC looked at BC’s Proposed 2022 BC School Foods Guidelines For Food & Beverages in K-12 Schools and the accompanying Ministry’s rationale for the proposed 2022 Guidelines.

It is the opinion of our PAC that these documents represent massive bureaucratic overreach and read like they were written by bureaucrats instructed to suck the joy out of our kids’ childhoods while simultaneously using their bureaucratic power to eliminate parental choice in how we should to raise our kids. As a bonus, these Guidelines will kill some of our PAC’s most successful fundraising. I hope that after reading this post you will rush to your computer to fill out their feedback form to tell these bureaucrats to get out of the business of trying to parent our kids and return parental choice to parents where it belongs.

For those unfamiliar with the 2022 School Food Guidelines, they are nominally intended

to support healthy food environments at school by increasing access to healthy food while limiting access to unhealthy food.

but what they also explicitly admit is that

The Guidelines are for adults making food decisions on behalf of students in a school setting.

they literally are telling us that this is about bureaucrats taking away parental choice about how we feed our kids.

Let’s look at some examples. These guidelines don’t just deal with the food served in cafeterias or food prepared by school staff, they also apply to hot lunch programs and bake sales. Let’s start by considering bake sales, here is a list of baked goods.

I can just imagine a bake sale under the 2022 Guidelines. No cakes or pies, no cookies or muffins, no home-made treats. Instead we can sell loaves of rye or bulgur bread or whole wheat muffins made with with low fat milk and no refined sugar, butter or fat.

One of the most successful fundraisers for our PAC is the hot lunch. They happen at most once-a-month and involve fun, easy-to-prepare foods that the kids will eat: hotdogs, Subway sandwiches. pizza, even Cobb’s bread and Booster Juice. None of these options would be allowed under the 2022 draft Guidelines. Hot dogs are specifically mentioned as unacceptable, pizza has processed cheese and meat and Subway sandwiches have deli meats and soft, processed cheese.

I have heard a number of people saying that these are only “Guidelines” are are thus not mandatory. That is not true. Once a School District chooses to put these “Guidelines” into their policy documents they become mandatory for the schools in those school districts.No administrator is going to turn around and tell their District that they have decided to ignore District policies.

Let’s be clear here. I am not saying schools should feed kids donuts and pizza every day but that is not what we are talking about. The Guidelines lack proportionality and don’t provide exceptions for special events. I can understand a set of Guidelines for general use that acknowledges that there will be exceptional cases but the Guidelines make it absolutely clear they brook no exceptions. Consider the Family Fun Fair.

Before Covid our school had its annual Family Fun Fair. It is a community event that was attended by well over half of our school community. It included a concession that sold hot dogs and hamburgers. You could buy an ice cream treat and of course on a hot spring night the kids could get popsicles or Freezies. Besides the concession there were lots of little games where the kids could win a toffee or a sucker. This is not a weekly or monthly event, it happens once a year…and the Guidelines would make it impossible. The Guidelines explicitly identify fun fairs and says no hotdogs, no popsicles and no treats of any kind. Think I am joking? Look below at the list of allowed treats….but we can try to sell cottage cheese and whole milk…that will go over really well on a hot spring evening.

One of the teachers at our school gives children who succeed a Hi Chew as a special reward for reading success. Another will give out small packs of gummy bears or a sucker to take home. All these rewards will cease to be allowed under the new Guidelines. I think we all agree that teachers shouldn’t need to bribe kids to get them to read, but eliminating virtually every treat used as rewards takes that a step too far.

How about another example? Each year we have a regional track meet. The event occurs in late spring when it can get pretty darn hot and the concession will sell sports drinks including drinks designed specifically to replace the electrolytes lost by kids exercising hard in the heat. Yet the draft Guidelines literally identify electrolyte replacement drink as being on the naughty list. Young athletes working hard in the sun don’t get to replace their electrolytes. Instead they can have water or maybe some plain unsweetened milk, just like Olympic athletes drink at their events.

Ultimately what these inflexible draft Guidelines completely miss is all these PAC and school food programs are optional. Parents can opt their kids in or out of the programs. It is about parental choice and how we want to raise our kids. There are plenty of parents who don’t like treats at school and they have the right to say no to optional school food programs, but under the draft Guidelines parental choice has been utterly removed. The bureaucrats don’t trust us to feed our kids. They want to be the final arbiters of what our kids eat and what they drink.

The thing that angers me the most about these draft Guidelines is that they have been created by unelected bureaucrats who were never given a public mandate to make this significant a change. We recently had a provincial election but these draft Guidelines were kept secret until after the election. I paid attention during the election and the current education minister certainly did not run on a platform of destroying PAC fundraising and making school miserable for kids. Had the current government run on a platform of eliminating parental choice and giving this type of power over our kids to bureaucrats they would never have been elected.

The other point I have mentioned in passing but really matters is that all these changes will essentially eliminate our school PAC funding structure. Virtually every major fundraiser will be affected with most being eliminated. No hot lunches, no Christmas chocolate sales, no bake sales, no fun fairs, no concessions at sporting events.

In BC, PACs play an incredibly important role filling in the gaps left by the chronic underfunding of our education system and the new draft Guidelines will essentially eliminate my PAC’s ability to raise the money necessary to underwrite field trips, to supply financial support for enrichment supplies and teaching aides and even provide our school with more books for our school library. PACs help pay for clubs and events and all that depends on funding…and our government is not giving our school that funding.

To summarize, these new draft Guidelines are a power grab by unelected bureacrats who want to take decision-making about raising our kids away from parents. They will eliminate our PAC’s most effective fundraisers and ultimately won’t make a major difference in student health. I urge my fellow parents to fill out the feedback form provided to the ministry and remind everyone that you also might want to write or call your local MLA or the Education Minister to let them know how you feel about these draft Guidelines.

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2 Responses to BC’s new School Food Guidelines: an attempt by bureaucrats to squeeze the joy out of our kids’ childhoods while stripping away parental choice

  1. Chester Draws says:

    I bet not a single one of the bureaucrats writing those guidelines keeps to them personally.

    Only water and plain milk/yoghurt? They’re having a laugh at our expense! Probably with a beer or wine in hand, mind.


  2. dcardno says:

    Until two or three years ago (time flies when you’re working from Limbo…) I worked in a building that had an employee cafeteria, and was a block or two away from a new high school. About a year after the school opened there was a sudden uptick in the number of students coming into the building to have lunch in the cafeteria, or ordering to-go. It turns out it was coincident with a similar policy implementation of ‘no junk food’ in the high school cafeteria, mandated by the Ministry of Education. The students quickly discovered that if they couldn’t get fries, chicken fingers, onion rings, or hamburgers at the school cafeteria, it was a fairly short walk to a place where they could. It was a bit of a PITA for the employees, but we could all sympathize with them.


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