Food rules may cost IC schools $200,000

BY SCOTT RAYNOR | MAY 05, 2009 7:30 AM

A new state regulation to restrict junk food in public schools means the Iowa City School District will lose almost $200,000 in profit, an official estimated Monday.

“Based on a strict interpretation of these new guidelines, six of our top revenue-producing food items would be eliminated,” said Dianne Duncan-Goldsmith, the director of food service for the School District.

Duncan-Goldsmith said Iowa City schools face an estimated loss of $341,000 in revenue, amounting to a decrease of $180,000 in profit. The regulation has the potential to dramatically alter school funding.

The ruling’s new guidelines — not effective until July 2010 — forbid the sale of soda and candy during school hours, limit entrees to no more than 400 calories, and eliminate selling caffeinated drinks.

Proponents of the decision say it will help curb obesity in the state’s youth.

According to a 2006 Iowa Department of Public Health study, approximately one-fifth of third- to fifth-grade students are overweight, and another one-fifth are designated as at-risk for being overweight.

The regulation will have little effect on students who bring their own lunch. But students choosing to purchase milk will now be limited to low-fat or non-fat milk.

For Iowa City district officials, the ruling will be an overall change.

“It is a more rigorous interpretation of standards we already have in place,” said Duncan-Goldsmith. “It will have the possibility of further adding mandates onto school nutrition programs.”

Some schools, such as Tate School in Iowa City, have already taken many of the steps outlined in the decision.

“We don’t even offer any junk food here,” said Tate guidance counselor Mark Jensen. “We even voluntarily grow some of our own foods.”

He is optimistic about the decision’s lasting effects.

“It is going to reinforce the notion of being healthy as kids,” he said. “I think it is pretty positive.”

Many details, such as enforcement of the new regulation, have not yet been decided.

“Right now, there are a lot of big question marks with what specifically it is going to mean,” Jensen said.

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