Despite the fact that almost all the research on in-school nutrition indicates that food bans are ineffective (and sometimes counterproductive), the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and food activists from groups like the Center for Science in the Public Interest are pushing government regulations on everything from chewing gum to potato chips.
The IOM’s narrow standards for foods that should be available in schools effectively squeeze everything but fruit juice, nuts, and a small assortment of produce out of the cafeteria snack bar. And the guidelines 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 would 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 country. Some schools forbid parents from bringing fast food to their kids. And in October a British boy was sent to the principal’s office because the lunch his parents packed for him did not meet the school’s guidelines.