Calgary teens seem more annoyed about losing their right to choose than losing junk food

An announcement from the Calgary Board of Education of a junk food ban, effective in January, has offended many Calgary teens.

Students said they are more upset at the insinuation they are incapable of making their own nutritional choices and less about what is being banned.

 Grade 12 student Rebecca Syrnyk, 17, usually brings food from home to school and rarely uses vending machines, but said, “By the time you’re in high school, you should be able to make those decisions for yourself and you shouldn’t have somebody taking it away or keeping it.”


Schools will look to Alberta Health Services to define what is nutritious and therefore acceptable to be sold in the school. Suggested items for vending machines from Alberta Health Services’ School Nutrition handbook are:

  • Plain water
  • Milk (skim, 1%, 2%)
  • Soy beverage (unflavoured and fortified)
  • 100% pure fruit or vegetable juice
  • Fruit, canned in juice
  • Dried fruit or 100% dried fruit leather
  • Apple sauce, unsweetened
  • Frozen 100% fruit bars
  • Whole grain crackers
  • Whole grain cereal without added sugar
  • Small whole grain bagels
  • Some whole grain granola bars
  • Small whole grain muffin
  • Hard cheese portions
  • Plain yogurt
  • Nuts or seeds, unsalted
  • Tuna to-go packages
  • Peanut butter

The new ban dictates that 100 per cent of foods available in schools must fit into Alberta Health Services’ “choose most often” or “choose sometimes” food categories. Foods like chips, pop, chocolate, candy and sugary granola bars included in the organization’s “choose least often” category will no longer be available in schools.

A similar ban was set into action in the Calgary Catholic system Oct. 1.

Fifteen-year-old Brett Frazmen is in his first year of high school but said he feels strongly that the decision to ban junk food without consulting students is unfair.

“I don’t think it’s right to do that to students when we are pushing adulthood we should have the decision to make for ourselves,” he said.

Courtney Dolan and Cassie Levesque, both 16, can be found along with hundreds of Western Canada High School students strolling along 17th Avenue on weekday afternoons.

Dolan said she doesn’t think her classmates will feel affected by the ban since most wander off during lunchtime and spare periods to buy pizza, donairs and chips from numerous restaurants and convenience stores nearby.

Levesque, who usually brings her own food to school, said she finds it ironic that students were repeatedly asked what kind of food they would like in vending machines, but doesn’t feel like student opinions were taken into account when the recent decision was made.

Sheila Taylor, CBE trustee for Wards 11 and 13, made the pitch to get rid of the junk food. She said it is expected that older students, some of who will be 18 or 19 when the ban comes into effect, will be annoyed by the decision and will likely go elsewhere to buy food.

But Taylor said that it’s important for the CBE to promote the healthiest learning environment possible and not to profit from the sale of unhealthy food.

She said her plan, put forth in early September, was to have an extensive consultation process that would last until Christmas in which trustees, students and parents could engage.

“I think it was just that there was so much public pressure; there was so much media coverage of this issue that administration decided on their own — irrespective of the board of trustees — that, yes, they were going to move forward on this,” she said.

“So at the end of the day the board of trustees did not adopt the policy I suggested because administration decided to do this on their own.”

Larry Leach, chair of the Association for Responsive Trusteeship in Calgary Schools, said: “I certainly wouldn’t argue with the fact that making an extra effort to cross the street to go to a convenience store to get junk food, is necessarily a bad message to be sending. What I am saying is that people should have an input, there are people that may have a problem, there are dissenting voices, there are people who will disagree with it.

“It’s best to hear those voices and come up with a policy that may be better for everybody.”

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