Guard your lunch box: Today the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a report proposing new guidelines for the food offered in schools. The recommendations group all food served in "competition" with the National School Lunch Program into a three-tiered hierarchy: the good, the bad, and the unwelcome. The immediate problems with this report are bountiful, but it’s the future implications that are most disconcerting.
Despite the fact that almost all of the research on in-school nutrition indicates that food bans are ineffective (and sometimes counterproductive), the IOM has declared war on everything from chewing gum to potato chips.
The narrow standards for the report’s top-tier foods will effectively squeeze everything but fruit juice, nuts, and a small assortment of produce out of the cafeteria snack bar. And the guidelines don’t stop there. New rules will outline where and when "permissible" foods can be sold, which athletic teams can have sports drinks like Gatorade or Powerade, and whether fundraisers and bake sales qualify as "nutritionally beneficial." Food provided at booster clubs, PTA meetings, parent-teacher nights, and other adult activities held on school grounds will also be subject to government scrutiny.
Dietary decrees like these may seem surreal, but many schools have already taken things to their absurd conclusion. School birthday celebrations are nearly a thing of the past, with cupcakes banned in classrooms across the nation. Some schools have adopted policies forbidding parents from bringing fast-food to their kids. And in October a British boy was even sent to the principal’s office because the lunch his parents packed for him did not meet the school’s guidelines.