The auditor general says more healthy food options are needed in Nova Scotia schools

The auditor general says more healthy food options are needed in Nova Scotia schools

The majority of schools tested in Nova Scotia scored an F when it came to healthy lunch choices, according to the auditor general report Released Tuesday.

Kim Adair, the auditor general of Nova Scotia, found that less than half of the 26 schools tested in the regional centers of the Halifax, Schenecto-Central, South Shore and Annapolis Valley education districts were committed to the regional school food and nutrition policy.

Only nine percent of those tested in schools with a third-party food service provider were following the policy.

“For schools that do not comply with the nutritional requirements of the policy, the main issue is that foods are served more frequently than is allowed during lunch at an average or minimal rate.
Nutritional value “.

Kim Adair, the auditor general of Nova Scotia, said Nova Scotia needs to improve its healthy food choices within schools. – Frances Campbell / File

Frozen breaded chicken, pizza with a white crust, and potato chips are examples of foods that are given to children more often than policy allows.

When speaking with cafeteria staff during the review, the Adair team was told that healthy foods tend not to sell.

“As a result, they were more reluctant to introduce these foods as it would lead to lower profits,” the report read, noting also that healthy foods often cost more than an alternative option.

Adair said the Ministry of Education and Early Childhood Development does not know if healthy foods are being served in schools due to a lack of monitoring.

But Adair noted that the policy needs a major update because it is based on the 1992 Canadian Food Guide, although new versions of the guide were released in 2007 and 2019. It hasn’t changed since then.

Adair has raised concerns about options in schools as child obesity rates continue to rise and Nova Scotia’s rate has been trending higher than the national average since 2015.

“This underscores the importance of taking preventive action early in childhood. Providing students with healthy food at school can help influence future eating habits, which should ultimately lead to healthier adults,” she said.

If not, Adair said, it could put the county at risk of spending “billions of dollars” in healthcare costs in the future.

Claudia Schinder, chairwoman of the Nova Scotia National Democratic Party, has called on Prime Minister Tim Houston to expand school lunch programs and help families with the rising cost of food.

“An inclusive program that guarantees students a full meal each day at school will help pay grocery bills and make sure students across this district get the food they need so they can focus less on hunger and more on learning,” said Chander.

“Giving hungry children a healthy meal at school will make a real difference to thousands of families across Nova Scotia.”

Positive points

But it’s not all bad news in the latest report.

Adair has found that nearly all schools offer a free healthy breakfast program that offers donuts, yogurt, fruit or granola bars for kids to take on the go.

Adair was also particularly impressed with how the South Shore Regional Education Center managed its cafeterias.

“All but one of the schools we visited at SSRCE were in compliance with the policy,” the report read.

The center has two staff who supervise catering services in all 23 schools within their district. They also review all recipes for children’s food and try to ensure that healthy meals are “cost-effective”.

For the most part, only the South Shore Regional Education Center offers healthy options in its schools, eliminating children’s choice between healthy and unhealthy foods.

“They have several practices in place that we thought management needed to consider leveraging and implementing across the system,” Adair said.

Adair made 10 recommendations in its report, all of which were accepted by the Department of Education.

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