Regulating junkfood in schools

Nutritional Guidelines for Food in Elementary and Middle Schools

Define “junk.”

When the Governor of Illinois asked the State Board of Education to come up with some new guidelines that would get rid of junk food in elementary and middle schools, the board decided to forgo a simple list of forbidden foods and instead devised a set of nutritional guidelines. This produced a couple of surprises.

  • Surprise number one:Under the revised nutritional rules, baked potato chips would be allowed. Current rules ban snack chips of any kind.
  • Surprise number two: Whole milk would be classified as “junk food.”

The “nutritional” irony was not lost on the Associated Press (AP). An AP article about the new guidelines zeroed right in on the fact that Illinois children could now be served baked Cheetos, but no milk.

So, can you guess what it was about milk that got it nixed from the list? Two words: fat content.

It’s not really a surprise that a school board would buy into the mainstream mindset that all fats are bad. So likewise we won’t be surprised if the final guidelines end up allowing skim milk. But the school board members probably aren’t aware that going fat-free would actually result in LESS nutrition.

In the e-Alert “Skimming & Scamming” (3/19/03), HSI Panelist Allan Spreen, M.D., noted that the skimming process makes the nutrients in milk more difficult to absorb. For instance, calcium is better absorbed in the presence of milk fat. But for optimal nutrition that milk fat should come from raw milk. As I’ve noted in previous e-Alerts, commercial milk (both whole and skimmed) contains traces of pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, bovine growth hormones and antibiotics.

Now that’s what I call junk food.

“School Officials Propose Ban of Whole Milk” Associated Press, 12/10/05,