On Oct. 1, Superintendent of Schools LeRoy Seitz issued an order that Parent-Teacher Associations can no longer sell ice cream in schools during lunchtime.
It is no secret that ice cream sales in the district have been going on for a long time . These sales are sponsored by local PTAs and help generate revenue that supports programs aimed at enhancing the education of our children.
Like many parents, I assumed the ban was an instance of the government again trying to decide what is best for our children. I looked into the matter and was disgusted with what was revealed: The so-called ice cream ban has absolutely nothing to do with ice cream—or with nutrition in schools.
Certain ice cream choices are in fact allowed to be sold in schools during lunchtime hours. The government requires that these products have less than eight grams of total fat per serving, have no more than two grams of saturated fat per serving and does not have sugar listed as the first ingredient. I was able to present to Dr. Seitz solid evidence supporting the fact that the even the New Jersey Department of Agriculture's Division of Nutrition acknowledged in writing that it can be served if it meets the required standards.
Dr. Seitz reinforced this, saying, "Ice cream that meets the state’s nutritional requirements (there are many that do) are permitted to be sold in the cafeteria during our lunch program. Unfortunately, the ice cream cannot be sold by the PTAs.”
That statement made me realize that this matter had nothing to do with nutrition, but with economic prosperity.
The specific regulation in question responsible for this ban is from the New Jersey Administrative Code.
N.J.A.C 2:36-1.11(a)(3)(c) states:
All income derived from the sale of food and beverage items within a school during the hours when the school lunch and school breakfast programs are in operation must accrue to the accounts of said programs.
This regulation is part of the New Jersey’s Child Nutrition Program's Competitive Food Policy.
If you read the entire regulation, there is no question in my mind that the regulation is taking a stand against unhealthy eating habits in the school system by limiting certain foods that can easily be accessed by our children in an academic setting. I agree with the majority of the provisions in the code. However, I disagree with the fact that only the food provider can profit from the sales of these foods.
What is even more bothersome is a related federal policy, which says:
The sale of other competitive foods may, at the discretion of the State agency and school food authority, be allowed in the food service area during the lunch period only if all income from the sale of such foods accrues to the benefit of the nonprofit school food service or the school or student organizations approved by the school.
Clearly, the federal government recognizes the rights of the local school or the student organization, which in this case is the PTA.
The regulation also states:
State agencies and school food authorities may impose additional restrictions on the sale of and income from all foods sold at any time throughout schools participating in the program.
The federal government allows the states to impose any other regulations that they choose. There are many states that choose to be more restrictive in what foods are being served in the schools. New Jersey did not impose any food restriction; it decided only to limit where the money goes—essentially locking out PTAs and other student organizations that may want to profit from these sales.
It appears as though the law creates a monopoly on the school food service industry allowing the food service companies to profit from selling food that some consider to be unhealthy.
It is no secret that economic times are rough and that many charitable organizations are feeling the effect. In these times, it baffles me that the state will allow food service providers to prosper from these sales, yet ban fundraising to charitable organizations whose main goal is to provide a better education for our children.
If the true reason for this ban has to deal with the overall health of our children, I probably would have ended my battle against the ban long ago. But this is not an ice cream ban. This has nothing to do with our children’s health. It's about greed.
Rest assured, I will continue to pursue this matter in an attempt to enact reform. PTAs should have the right to raise funds in an academic setting and should not be locked out of the schools.
Intervale School PTA Member