At Issue: Should Sugar Be Banned In Schools?

sprinkles-339270_640The war on sugar is full force. It seems impossible to turn on the news, stroll the supermarket or host a playdate without the topic of sugar rearing its head. In particular: kids’ consumption of sugar.

Recently a neighbourhood school has made a push to greatly reduce the amount of sugar permitted. Let’s face it, any time someone talks about banning, prohibiting, eliminating . . .people get feisty.

Efforts to reduce sugar in schools has been around for years, and in the case of a Georgia school, more than a decade. Proponents cite better overall health, fewer behavioural problems, and increased concentration to name just a few of the benefits. Principal of sugar-free pioneer school Browns Mill Elementary School said that within 6 months standardized test scores increased and behavioural incidents decreased. In time, students came to learn how to make good food choices and now broccoli is a favourite in the cafeteria. Advocates know that this is a huge undertaking – but they are playing the long game; quick to point out those efforts to reduce tobacco use in younger people has been successful over decades.

Nonetheless there are several opponents of the idea to limit sugar in schools, including researchers who report findings that suggest banning sugar in schools has little long term effect on a child’s overall sugar consumption and that changing attitudes in the home have a more lasting impact. In fact, Dr. John Sievenpiper says that negative messages like “don’t eat fat”, “don’t eat salt”, and “don’t eat sugar” may be doing more negative than good. He goes as far to blame the “don’t eat fat” message that was sweeping the nation in the 80s and 90s as one of the reasons for the current obesity epidemic. MaryAnn Tomovich, MS., RD agrees and believes that banning any specific food group creates a culture of fear and does nothing to ultimately educate our children. She, along with Dr. Michael Alderman, is a fan of the U diet: the basis being healthy, nutritious foods but allowing for some indulgences.

I am no health expert and my statistics grades will attest that a profession as a researcher is not in my future, but I do know parents. And I know how to quickly polarize a group of them.

So what do you think? Should schools ban all sugar? Are vending machines ok to get the heave-ho but school birthday cakes allowed? If a teacher gives out lollipops after a test or uses candies in a counting lesson, should they be reprimanded? Classroom parties: yay or nay in the presence of anything other than pretzels and veggie platters? What about fundraising? Fun Fairs? Bake sales? Is water the only acceptable beverage in the lunch bag?

Where is the line drawn and furthermore, who decides?

This week 4Mothers offers up our opinions and on Friday we’re joined by the dynamic duo Leigh and Meg of the blog Me and Meg.

As always we want to know that you think. What’s going on at your child’s school? Are you in favour of an all-out ban, gentle moderation or leaving it up to a parents to decide what is and isn’t too much sugar?

Join the conversation by leaving a comment on the blog, Facebook or Instagram.

For more reading:

(2014) Why Our Low-Fat, No-Sodium, Ban-Sugar Society May Be Making Us Fat

(2011) Banning Sugared Drinks in Schools Doesn’t Lower Student Consumption

(2011) Why Banning Foods In Schools Sends Kids the Wrong Message

(2008) 10 years later, school still sugar free and proud

6 thoughts on “At Issue: Should Sugar Be Banned In Schools?

  1. I tend to agree that completely banning something like sugar or fat or carbs doesn’t really teach anyone how to moderate their intake, or to better understand how these types of food groups react with your body. Educating people, especially when the setting of this topic happens to be in an educational facility, seems to make the most sense. Give people the facts and let them decide for themselves.

    As far as classroom parties, or giving out treats when the class does well on an exam – I think playing healthy food police doesn’t really teach kids that there is a time and a place for a treat every once in a while. Maybe the kids get a lollipop when they all do well on a test, but if there’s a classroom party, maybe you mix it up with veggies and fruits and 1 small treat – mini muffins or mini cupcakes or cake pops.

  2. Good post! I work in pediatrics. I agree with sugar decrease from schools. They can have natural sugar from fruits. What they could increase is recess. I have been working with kids for 8 years, my doctors have been in practice 40. In the past decade the amount of ADD/ADHD is sky rocketing in this office, kids as young as 4 & 5. I am in GA and American Acadamy of Pediatrics sent us a year before school started. “Pediatricians should work to eliminate sweetened drinks in schools. This entails educating school authorities, patients, and patients’ parents about
    the health ramifications of soft drink consumption. Offerings such as real fruit and vegetable juices, water, and low-fat white or flavored milk provide students at all grade levels with healthful alternatives. Pediatricians should emphasize the
    notion that every school in every district shares a responsibility for the nutritional health of its student.” One of the doctors that started the practice 40 years ago said the the number of kids withy ADHD has been insane and he stongly believes its the increase in sweets and poor quality of food and lack of recess in schools.

  3. It’s such a tricky issue. In Kindergarten, my son started getting sugary treats from school at least every second day. Every kid was bringing cupcakes or candy to share on their birthday (establishing that expectation for every kid), student projects involved bringing in traditional treats from different countries (always sugary), every celebration involved candy (valentine’s day, christmas, easter), and on top of that, the teachers were handing out things like popsicles etc.

    I ended up writing letters to the teacher and principal, but I don’t think much has changed.

  4. Reducing sugar, yes, but banning it… I’m not sure how much that’ll help. I personally feel that as we cant ban sugar anywhere else, we should focus on education (of sugar), not control!

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