Sugared down: Advisory board calls for healthier school food

Parents concerned about the foods served up in Charlottesville City schools– and statistics suggesting that one in three local students fourth grade and up are overweight or obese–  should mark their calendars for June 2. That's the night the Charlottesville School Board will meet and hear the recommendations of the School Health Advisory Board, a federally mandated volunteer board comprising parents, health professionals, and teachers.

According to Board Chair Ivana Kadija, mother of two city school students, the recommendations include slashing sugar and salt and seeking ways to increase offerings of local produce. (The schools already obtain some local produce and goods through the Food Hub, an organization that serves as a one-stop-shop for local produce, but the advisory board would like those efforts expanded).

"It's clear that sugar is something we are absolutely addicted to," says Kadija, citing research conducted in France that shows rats prefer intense sweetness even to highly addictive cocaine.

While Charlottesville City Schools Assistant Superintendent James Henderson says the school system has already made significant changes and is dedicated to further improving the nutrition in school-provided breakfast lunch and snacks, Kadija says more needs to be done.

An online petition Kadija created calls on the schools to restrict sugar intake and has already garnered more than 500 signatures from parents and officials including school board members Guian McKee and Juandiego Wade as well as Mayor Dave Norris and Charlottesville City Councilor Satyendra Huja.

The petition can be found at

Read more on: Ivana Kadijaschool food


Oh. Another "Advisory " group made up of special interest representatives. I am sitting on the edge of my chair waiting for the report. Maybe they ought to recommend that high schooler not be allowed to leave campus to have lunch at a fast food restaurant. That ought to get rid of a lot of traffic congestion.

Enough of government trying to micromanage our lives!
I believe in healthy nutrition, so I serve it at home, and have taught my children healthy choices from an early age, and I try to set a good example. The school cafeterias serve up balanced meals, the kids can find healthy selections, if they want to. And parents can choose to pack them a healthy lunch, again, if they want to.
Isn't it a little bit odd - some people insist that a teenage girl should have the right to choose to end her pregnancy, but also believe that she is incapable of independently making good choices when it comes to deciding what to have for lunch and we need the government to decide for her?

Twinmom- they are trying, they are micromanaging our lives. Unfortnately they are unable to manage their own lives.

I suggest the school board perfect their rectal self-exam technique and properly discipline the students, then properly teach the students and turn this society around............

They're not trying to micromanage your lives. They're trying to serve one (or for those who also need breakfast) two good meals a day. This group is not coming into your homes and telling you what to eat. What could possibly be wrong with trying to improve the food served in schools?

And "special interest group"? Really? Parents of kids in the schools? Teachers of those kids? That's now a "special interest group" spoken of in the same way as oil and tobacco and cable television companies?

Chris, have you read the petition? It is extremely vague. It calls on the School Board to "take a stand" to "restrict sugar in our schools".
So what does that mean? Replace sugar packets with stevia? Or does it mean that students will not be allowed to bring in Kool-Aid to class parties? They complain about cookies, ice cream, cereals and yogurt, when we all know there are "low-sugar" varieties of those items. The petition doesn't even make a distrinction between refined sugars and natural sugars. How are they going to police a "restriction on sugar" in the schools? Search every lunchbox and toss out what someone thinks might be contraband, when perhaps it wasn't loaded with sugar afterall?
If you want to have a petition that calls for inclusion of more fruits and vegetables, whoops scratch that, as many fruits (such as bananas and raisins) have a high sugar content. If you want to include more fresh vegetables or whole grains or ??, fine, then do it. But to try to "restrict sugar" is ludicrous and unenforceable. This petition as currently written, illustrates just how little this Advisory Board knows about nutrition and foods.

The petition is too vague to be of any particular help. But it's also a group of private citizens expressing their concern (albeit, in my opinion, ineffectively). It's not "government trying to micromanage our lives." The reality is that at public schools some governmental agency is choosing what food is offered to students for lunch and breakfast. Choosing different foods isn't micromanaging, it's choosing different foods within the context that they already managed.

Nowhere in the petition does anyone suggest searching lunch boxes.

What I know of school cafeteria meals (granted, not comprehensive); they don't provide good, balanced meals. French Fries are still considered a vegetable, I believe. Clearly, we can improve school food. Whether this petition is a way to help that along is a different question.

Regardless, there's no micromanaging on the part of government here.

I worked as a kitchen manager in the county schools for almost ten years. The school nutrition program is headed by a registered dietician whose goal was and is to provide wholesome fresh foods every day. The child nutrition program is self-sustaining. It does not receive funding from any government source. It does receive product from the Department of Agriculture.
The school I worked in provided a salad bar with at least ten fresh ingredients each day, freshly made sandwiches, homemade pizza, hot meal selection and yes, a burger or chicken sandwich with fries. Students were not permitted to purchase fries without the rest of the meal including milk. We also sold cookies and ice cream(gasp).
The bulk of "bad" food came in the door in lunch boxes and back packs. When they banned sodas, kids would come in with a 2 liter bottle or 12 pack of cans. When they banned candy and high fat chips from the vending machines they'd come in with bags of chips and candy. When we introduced fresh foods with better nutritional content, they'd send someone out to McDonald's. They will continue to do this and no amount of legislation will change it.
If these folks with the petition are so concerned, maybe a good place to start would be in their own pantries and refrigerators. You can't take care of everyone and you can't change people's habits through legislation.
Maybe we should spend a little more time minding our own business

Chris, we agree on one thing - "The petition is too vague to be of any particular help."

You also wrote:"'s also a group of private citizens expressing their concern (albeit, in my opinion, ineffectively)." Not Exactly True!
The article states, "School Health Advisory Board, a federally mandated volunteer board comprising parents, health professionals, and teachers."
The government mandated this board, which means federal dollars were spent created the boards, writing goals for the boards, etc etc. The teachers' and health professionals time is not free. The School Board, and eventually City Council will spend time (and tax dollars) reviewing the petition, considering the petition, voting on the petition, and (likely) trying to implement it. Those are my tax dollars being wasted to deal with a petition that makes no logical sense.

You interpret the petition to mean that it requests that the schools improve their school lunch program, but that is NOT what the petition says. It says the goal is to "restrict sugar", nothing more, nothing less. You can't read a lofty goal of improving nutrition into this. The Advisory Group chose to focus on one thing only - restricting sugar-, not upping the number of salads, not eliminating french fries, not shopping at the farmers' markets, not substituting turkey burgers for beef.

Lahlee, thanks for your comments from the front lines. Your message speaks volumes.

It's a volunteer board.

The petition is a community driven effort that also happens to involve a volunteer parent on the board.

Yes, we can't take care of everyone. We should clearly stop trying.

Maybe some parents could chime in.......maybe some parents could "parent", and take their own kids and themselves off crappy food

Um...parents are on the volunteer board.

And part of the issue here is school lunches and breakfasts are provided most often to people who don't have enough money to reasonably feed their families.