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No junk food, more exercise greets B.C. students


September 8, 2008
By Colleen Cross


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September 8, 2008 – Victoria, B.C. – Chocolate bars, salt and vinegar chips and ice cold root beers have been expelled from B.C. schools as the government starts the new school year on a health kick.

September 8, 2008 – Victoria, B.C.
– Chocolate bars, salt and vinegar chips and ice cold root beers have
been expelled from B.C. schools as the governmentstarts the new school year on a health kick.

Education Minister Shirley Bond says a healthy body really does
promote a healthy mind, and B.C. schools will be the healthiest in
the country.

Junk food has been banned from all public schools and students
from kindergarten through to Grade 12 will be required to complete
30 minutes of physical activity a day, or the equivalent of 150
minutes of exercise a week, she said.

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“This is prompted by the fact that one in four children in
British Columbia is either overweight or obese,'' said Bond.  “We
actually know that children who are healthy actually learn better.''

She said B.C.'s junk food ban combined with its daily exercise
program gives the province the most aggressive health program in
Canada.

Students from kindergarten to Grade 9 will be required to do 30
minutes of physical activity each school day, Bond said. Secondary
school students in Grades 10 to 12 must complete 150 hours of
exercise a month.

Bond said the secondary students have the opportunity to add
their extracurricular activities to their monthly goal. That means
if they play hockey, take dance classes or walk or ride their bike
to school those activities will be counted, she said.

“It's basically giving schools some flexibility,'' said Bond.

She said she doesn't expect teachers to institute rigorous
exercise routines for children. Activities like pretend walks across
Canada can become parts of daily recess breaks, Bond said.

“It is not just about physical education classes,'' she said.
“We really hope the (physical break) is about how the teachers
shape their classes.''

The province-wide school junk food ban coincides with an earlier
ban on junk food at B.C. elementary schools.

Bond said she also expects to see school cafeterias and vending
machine companies using their creativity to produce and sell food to
students that is interesting and healthy.

“We've created a series of guidelines that actually outline the
types of products that can be in a vending machine,'' she said. “It
doesn't mean that a student couldn't have pizza. It's just a matter
of what's on that pizza.''

Bond said she's actually heard some vending machine companies are
preparing to put **>vegetables<** in their school machines.

The government's food guidelines are modelled on the Canada Food
Guide, she said.

The president of the B.C. Teachers' Federation said teachers
support the removal of junk food from schools, but have their
fingers crossed the veggie-filled vending machine idea takes off
because many schools use those machine revenues for student projects
and activities.

“We agree with the minister on the junk food,'' said Irene
Lanzinger. “Absolutely, teachers are behind that. (But) that
revenue was funding sports teams, special events and, in some cases,
text books and basic supplies.''

Teachers have concerns about the daily exercise require, not
because they don't believe in getting kids in shape, but because the
government added the requirement without providing extra resources
to make room for the activities, she said.

“You can't add P.E. in schools without adding space for that and
resources for that,'' said Lanzinger. “We don't have the gym space.
In Vancouver it rains a lot and you can't have kids out there on the
field in the pouring rain, and in many parts of the province it's
very cold in the winter.''

But teachers believe in teaching students about the benefits of
lifelong nutrition and the importance of exercise, she said.

Opposition New Democrat education critic Norm Macdonald said the
government's healthy living program puts an extra load on teachers
who already put in full days.

He said health program also avoids the major issue plaguing
education in British Columbia _ overcrowded and underfunded
classrooms.

Last year, there were 10,000 B.C. classrooms with more than 30
students or classes with more than three students with special
needs, Macdonald said.

“Fundamentally, you need to have classrooms that are going to be
as effective as possible,'' said Macdonald.

But he said there are too many overcrowded classrooms and too
many classes without the resources and supports to help special
needs students.

Lanzinger said the teachers' union has met with the education
ministry to discuss class sizes and specials needs students.

“We continue to struggle to convince the government to address
resources there,'' she said.

Bond has often said the government has increased school funding
by more than $1 billion despite enrolment declines of more than
50,000 students.