Chicago Public Schools officials on Wednesday unanimously approved a healthier snack and beverage policy that bans the sale of items like Gatorade, energy drinks and whole milk at schools.
The new policy also discourages selling candy or cake for school fundraisers as well as the distribution of candy in classrooms during holiday parties or as rewards. CPS said it's part of an expanded health initiative that would help align the district with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Healthier US Schools Challenge and First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative.
"This new policy sets meaningful standards and guidelines that promote health and wellness and raise awareness among our students about the importance of making healthy choices," said Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett when the policy was introduced.
The new policy requires that all vending machine food, and a la carte items sold in cafeterias meet health standards, like limits on calories (no more than 35 percent of total calories from fat per serving), fat content (zero trans fats) and sodium (no more than 230 mg for a snack or side dish).
Gatorade, for example, can only be used after students have engaged in a school sports activity. Milk must be low-fat, skim or calcium-enriched soy or rice.
"A healthy environment in school helps our students succeed, and this new Healthy Snack and Beverage Policy will help set that standard across the city," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Health experts say similar programs have already proven to be effective in school systems in California and New York, where students' body mass index (BMI) stayed lower between 5th and 8th grade. At the high school level, students consumed, on average, 150 fewer calories per day.
"Kids spend the vast majority of their waking day, nine months out of the year, in school, so it's a logical place to start," said Dr. Jamie Chriqui of the University of Illinois Chicago Department of Medicine.
Several high school students said that while they liked the new policy overall, the ban on sweets at birthdays and celebrations is too extreme.
"Everybody likes to have a cupcake on their birthday," said Lincoln Park High School Senior Tangui Auguste.
Emanuel on Wednesday also introduced an ordinance that would make vending machines healthier in city buildings.