are cracking down on junk food, banning sugary drinks, candy and certain beloved cafeteria items from their schools.School boards
A proposed pizza-day ban by the Dufferin-Peel Catholic School Board in Ontario, however, has nothing to do with making waistline-friendly choices.
This ban is about wheat and gluten, the Toronto Star reports.
The pizza lunches at risk are weekly events used to raise money for field trips and school programs. The fundraisers, which bring in more than $15,000 a year, are now on the chopping block in schools where students have allergies to pizza ingredients.
The ban will be a school-by-school decision, with principals making final decisions on whether lunches will continue at their particular schools following community consultation meetings.
"I'm surprised to hear there are schools that are considering removing (pizza)," Lilly Byrtus of the Allergy/Asthma Information Association tells the Toronto Star, adding that wheat and gluten allergies are rarely "immediately life threatening" as peanut allergies can be.
She says that kids who have allergies to the pizza should just refrain from eating it. Proximity to the pizza is not putting students at risk.
"As long as the kids with that allergy are not eating that product, it shouldn't be a threat to their health," she says. "It's not that big of a threat."
Some parents are outraged by the proposal, not because they're passionate about their kids consuming greasy slices of pizza, but because the fundraising money is so valuable — and because they weren't given adequate warning to come up with alternative solutions.
"It would be very difficult in this stage in the year to find that $15,000 another way," says Brenda Coady of the School Advisory Council at Divine Mercy in Mississauga, where pizza lunches comprise the majority of the school's fundraising.
"If we had any prior warning, maybe we could have thought of alternatives."
Coady adds that the board's approval of the policy is strictly due to a liability issue.
While parents and teachers are upset by the threatened removal of pizza lunches, they should be wondering why the decision to ban them has taken so long, considering the school board has had an anaphylactic policy since 2006 that prohibits bringing edible treats into the classroom for special occasions, and bans "fundraising events that include life-threatening allergens such as peanuts, peanut by-products, tree nuts, fish, milk, soy, egg, sesame seed, shellfish and wheat."
The pizza lunches were permitted to remain when the policy was first implemented not because the lunches were bringing in money for school events, but because the weekly meal was considered a service.
"It's one less meal that (parents are) providing during the week. It supports that the kids have a hot lunch during the week," says superintendent of schools Denise Oude-Reimerink of the lunch program.
Upon redefining the pizza lunch as a fundraiser — the slices are sold for profit, after all — rather than a service, the board was forced to revisit the anaphylactic policy.
Some parents of kids with allergies don't expect schools to ban foods their kids can't eat.
St. Timothy Catholic School in Kitchener recently banned a number of foods to accommodate a kindergarten student who has a deadly allergy to dairy and eggs and who is gluten-intolerant. The child's father tells the Record that he requested that students eat outside the classroom — a messy egg sandwich on a desk his son touches could kill him — not ban any foods outright.
"We don't want other parents to have to change their lifestyle for my son. That's not the case," the anonymous father says.
He adds: "They (the board) have made this into a spectacle for my son. You think he wants to start school this way? This was never my choice to force parents to have to buy non-allergenic foods."
Another parent of an anaphylactic boy supports a more balanced approach to dealing with allergies — possibly introducing allergy rooms where students eat outside of dangerous cafeteria spaces — rather than banning foods for everyone.
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Jennifer Neeb tells the Record that restricting foods at a school can create a false sense of security for children with severe allergies.
"Parents don't want these kinds of measures taken. The rest of the world doesn't accommodate you," she says.
The National Post's Matt Gurney proposes an obvious solution to the recent pizza-ban proposal: make gluten-free pizza an option, too.
"Ordering a gluten-free pizza isn't a big deal anymore. They cost more, that's true, but you can get them delivered from the same joint that will get you your party size cheese-and-veggies. The added costs of a few gluten free pizzas would come to, in total, only a few bucks. That cost can easily be spread across all the students, or simply swallowed by the school. Instead of raising $15,000 a year, they'll raise $14,947. This shouldn't be a deal breaker," Gurney writes.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported on American colleges doing just that, "expanding their efforts to meet the dietary needs of a small but growing number of students who can't tolerate gluten."
Gluten isn't being banned on campuses. Rather, gluten-free options are offered to those suffering from uncomfortable intolerances.
If you're going to ban pizza, do it because it falls under the junk-food ban. If its artery-clogging properties are of no concern — pizza is still considered a vegetable at schools south of the border — then maybe it's time to expand pizza options to let most students enjoy a slice or two, and to provide safe spaces for severely allergic kids to eat their allergen-free non-pizza lunches away from dangerous ingredients.