The Nutrition Police Are Coming to Your Bake Sale

It has come to my attention that the Ontario government has been so kind as to provide us with a cookbook  with “healthy” recipes for baked goods, so our children don’t have to suffer the ignominy of purchasing delicious, decadent treats at school bake sales.

The cookbook features such Seinfeldian delights as brownies made with mashed black beans, and “vanilla squares”: Rice Krispie squares, minus the Rice Krispies, plus All-Bran. Because what kid doesn’t enjoy a delicious square of Super Colon Blow ‘n Marshmallows?

When I ranted about this to Blake his first response was, “at least it’s not mandatory.” Actually, the cookbook goes hand in hand with Ontario’s new School Food and Beverage Policy, which specifies that 80% or greater of food sold at any given school event should meet certain criteria: no more than 5 grams of fat per serving, no more than 2 grams of saturated fat per serving, and at least 2 grams of fibre per serving.

Now, I have nothing against healthy eating, but this is ridiculous.

First of all, we’re talking about bake sales here. Bake sales. Bake sales are special occasions, a time for indulgence. Bake sale food does not make up a significant proportion of anyone’s diet. No kid ever got fat eating food from bake sales.

Second, this cookbook, this whole policy, is insulting and patronising.  I’m no liberatarian, but this is literally a nanny state at work. The government is telling us, in very specific and precise terms, what we should feed our children.  Not suggesting, not educating, but decreeing.

Who provides the food for bake sales? Parents. Not corporations or school boards, who might for reasons of profit or expedience not take all childrens’ needs into account, but the parents of the very same children who are buying and eating the food. If we, the parents, thought bake sale food was damaging our childrens health, we would have very straightforward recourse: we would provide different food. No-one sends steak tartar or fugu to bake sales because that would be dangerous. Cupcakes and brownies are not dangerous. They do not need to be regulated.

The final irony is that “the standards do not apply to food and beverages that are offered in schools to students at no cost”. So school meal programs for children who come to school hungry, the programs which are quite likely to furnish a significant proportion of those children’s daily nutrition, are, unfathomably, not governed by these regulations. Good grief.

2 thoughts on “The Nutrition Police Are Coming to Your Bake Sale

  1. But Amy, there are exemptions for special events, no? Ten per year? I personally don’t think some of the regulations go far enough. For example, a food with 960 mg or less of sodium is considered healthy and can be included in foods served 80 % of the time. Any nutritionist worth his/her salt (ha!) will tell you that no kid should get that much sodium in one serving at a single meal. I personally believe that the sodium level rules are weak so as to accommodate schools’ reliance on Pizza lunches for fund-raising. (I blogged about this very issue here, if anyone is interested.)

  2. Sorry, I said I would respond to northTOmom’s comment and I totally forgot. Yes, there are ten exemptions per year, which is the only thing which redeems this from utter patronizing absurdity.

    I’ll take your word for it that 960 mg is sodium is too much (it certainly sounds like a lot). The following is totally baseless, but it’s interesting that someone profits from pizza lunches but no-one profits from bake sales except the schools. I wonder if there’s a Big Pizza lobby.

    But either way, a bi-weekly pizza lunch is not the same thing as a bake sale. Pizza is lunch and therefore should have some redeeming nutritional value. Baked goods are treats and are, as far as I’m concerned, allowed to be unhealthy. That’s the nature of a treat. I guess if you’re sending your kid to school with brownies every day you’d want to put black beans in them, but hell, why not make the kid a black bean and corn salad and let them appreciate food the way it’s meant to taste.

    We don’t have pizza lunches – as an EcoSchool Platinum school they’re really not defensible. We seem to fundraise enough without them. Are you guys an EcoSchool? Maybe you could try and fight them from that angle too?

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