The Rainy River District School Board encourages healthy nutrition choices and active lifestyles that contribute to student achievement, and has been working in partnership with the Northwestern Health Unit to follow the nutritional standards in the Healthy Food for Healthy Schools Act, 2008 (also known as Bill 8).
The Ministry of Education’s trans fat standards regulation took effect on Sept. 1, 2008, which details the amounts of trans fat allowed in foods or beverages that are sold in schools.
Naturally-occurring trans fat found in milk, and in ruminant meat such as beef, goat, or lamb, does not appear to have the same negative effect as those fats that are formed during food processing. If the ingredient label shows that fat sources are only dairy or ruminant meat, the product is exempt from the regulation.
If there are other sources of fat also in the products, then the product is not exempt from meeting the regulation’s guidelines.
Some changes at the elementary level include J.W. Walker School’s lunch program, which now contains all home-made foods that are low in trans fat. The menus of the hot lunch program at Riverview School in Rainy River were revamped last year with the support of Heidi Ivall, a health educator with the Northwestern Health Unit.
Many of the high-fat items were removed, healthier alternatives were added, and the school continues to revisit the menu on a regular basis.
At McCrosson-Tovell School, the hotdog wieners are made from chicken, and pizza no longer is sold.
In partnership with the Northwestern Health Unit, the school plans to invite both parents and students to attend workshops, where they can practise methods of healthy cooking as well as learn how to make improved nutritional choices.
Parents already have been accompanied to the store and shown how to calculate the amount of trans fat in a packaged food based on the nutritional contents label.
Sturgeon Creek School changed its hot lunch menu to comply with the new regulation, and now offers students a choice of two healthy main dishes. Side dishes include choices such as salad, raw vegetables, and yogurt.
At the Sturgeon Creek Alternative Program, the canteen now offers only those snacks that meet the regulation’s guidelines.
At the secondary level, the Rainy River High School student council removed all soft drinks from the beverage machines, and substituted milk and 100% fruit juice.
In the past, another vending machine had chocolate bars and chips. That machine now holds items such as sugar-free gum and nuts.
Additionally, the student council has substituted the Friday lunch, Holiday Pizza, for home-made pizza from a local source that meets the healthy guidelines. Other hot lunch alternatives are chicken burgers, grilled cheese sandwiches, and tacos made at the school.
At Fort Frances High School, meanwhile, cooking methods in the cafeteria have been modified to meet the standards, and an internal review found that the items in the vending machines were in compliance of the new regulation.
If the food or beverage sold is intended for consumption on school grounds, then the trans fat standards apply. If the intention is for the food or beverage to be consumed off school grounds, in the example of school-related fundraisers, the standards do not apply.
Other exemptions include foods brought from home by students, and instances where the school is used by the community for events after school hours.
Schools can designate up to 10 special event days where the trans fat standards do not apply.