Are Toronto Schools Teaching Kids to Eat Badly?

Last week, my 5 year-old daughter came home with a note from her school explaining that if she orders a submarine sandwich from Quiznos at school next week, the sandwich company will donate money to a Toronto District School Board nutrition education program. The note came with a checklist of toppings–did she want ham and cheese, lettuce, or maybe mayonaise–and the promise of a drink and a bag of chips she could enjoy with her classmates next week.

I was a little surprised to learn that a fast-food company was helping the public school system raise money for nutrition education and was nevertheless contemplating participating (my children suffer enough with me, a food conscious mother). Then I looked up the nutritional information for the sandwich. According to the company’s own nutritional information, the six inch sandwich they were proposing to feed my kid contained as much sodium as she needed in one day–1100 mgs.

The irony was too much: my kid would eat a sodium-stacked lunch in the name of nutrition. This served as a reminder of how much education needs to be done around food in our schools–not only for the kids but for the educators themselves.

It’s not that we only eat kale and bulgur in our house. We sometimes–well, pretty often–eat treats like cookies, chocolate, ice cream and I frequently make fun foods like pizza and sweet potato french fries. But that’s just it, they are treats.

Schools should be teaching our kids about nutrition, not only in the classroom, but by example. When it comes to food, schools should be kept to the highest standard. As for books, schools choose to teach texts with literary merit. They read Shakespeare not the Twilight series. Not because kids should never read mass-marketed best sellers but because school is supposed to be the place where you learn to read at the highest standard.

So by holding pizza lunches and allowing pop at events as well as fast-food fundraisers, Toronto schools are educating children in poor eating habits. There’s a childhood obesity epidemic out there and it seems that schools still don’t get their role in fighting it.