Monthly Archives: June 2012

Nutrition software, coming to a school near you (well eventually, anyway)

In case anyone in the Food Facts community hasn’t noticed, schools all over the country have been issuing electronic payment cards for student school lunches. Parents transfer money onto the card and then students use the card similarly to an ATM, with the cost being debited from the money in the account. Frankly, it took my own family a while to get used to … the card ended up in pockets that got washed and became unusable and the school was enormously patient with us as we (read my children) became used to the idea that those cards were important and needed to be treated that way. It all worked out in the end. But we were a bit mystified as to why we couldn’t just give the kids a five dollar bill every day to pay for their lunch (no potential card washing involved).

On Wednesday, a really fascinating article was published on Indystar.com (the Gannett owned Indiana newspaper). It gave us an insight as to why the electronic lunch payment cards have been issued and we thought our community might like to have a better understanding. So we’ll sum it up for you here.

This fall, the Waukee school district in Indianapolis will be implementing new nutrition software. With this implementation, parents will now have online access to monitor their kid’s food purchases in school. The software, called PrimeroEdge is manufactured by Cybersoft.

Parents will have online access to nutrition information for all meals available in their children’s school. That will include calories, carbs, sodium and fat. They’ll also be able to access ingredient lists. And, of course, they’ll be able to view the food purchases their kids are making on their school lunch card accounts. To be honest, I’m kind of embarrassed that I couldn’t figure out why we were getting those cards in the first place – even if we don’t live in Indianapolis.

When this comes to where my family lives, I’ll be able to go online and see the food choices my kids are making during the day. It might open valuable conversations between us … things like “wasn’t there anything better on the menu today?” or “wow, you went through that money pretty quick, what exactly were you snacking on?” or “gee, maybe you want to eat some fruit instead of those cookies at least a few days a week.”

But for me, personally, it will be a better window into the nutritional value of the food being served. It’s no secret that we’ve had some pretty odd occurrences regarding the nutritional value of school lunches in our country (ketchup as a vegetable, anyone?). And to be honest, some of the preparation choices in some areas as early as six years ago were kind of questionable for very young children. Kids can be picky eaters and tend to appreciate more honest food they recognize that feature fresh ingredients. Ask your children what salads look like in their schools (my own have told me that the lettuce is wilted, the tomatoes have no taste and the dressing comes in a packet).

If this software improves the communication between parents, children and schools regarding nutritional value and eating habits, we’re certainly all for it.

We’d love to hear opinions from our Food Facts community. Take a look at this link and tell us what you think.

http://www.indystar.com/article/D2/20120628/COMM/306280026/New-software-will-let-parents-monitor-kids-eating-habits?odyssey=nav|head

It would appear it’s coming soon, to a school near you!

New York’s proposed ban on super-sized sugary beverages …the right thing to do or government interference? Thoughts from our community, please

Food Facts wants our community to weigh in on this very controversial piece of news. Last month, Michael Bloomberg, New York City’s mayor proposed a ban on the sale of large sized sodas and other sugary drinks. The ban would affect restaurant establishments, movie theaters and street food sellers. Mayor Bloomberg is proposing this ban in order to curb the rising problem of obesity in New York City.

The ban would apply to drinks that are larger than 16 fluid ounces and range from sodas to energy drinks to sweetened iced teas which would be prohibited from sale in delis, fast-food outlets, sporting venues and even hot-dog and sandwich carts which are common on most New York City street corners. If the proposal is approved, it could go into effect in March of 2013. In New York City, more than half of adults are obese or overweight. And about one-third of New Yorkers drink more than one sugary drink per day. This information comes from the New York City health commissioner. The proposed ban would not apply to drinks with fewer than 30 calories per 8-ounce serving, so unsweetened iced teas, diet sodas and flavored or vitamin waters with no calories would not be affected.

According to the mayor, the only thing the ban actually would do is make it less convenient to consume more than 16 ounces of a chosen sugary beverage. After all, a consumer would be free to buy a second one. Because the city does have jurisdiction over local eating establishments they are confident they have the authority to restrict the sales of these beverages.

Since the proposal, other mayors around the country are considering similar actions. Many in the health and nutrition community are supportive of the measure. Many in the New York City community and the government are not.

Here, in our Food Facts community, many are aware of the unhealthy and possibly downright harmful ingredients in soda. But, we’re also pretty aware that those statements don’t just involve sugary sodas and pretty much extend to diet versions, as well. You can check out two examples right here:

http://www.foodfacts.com/ci/nutritionfacts/Diet-Soda/Coke-Cola-Diet-Coke-Soda-20-oz/778

http://www.foodfacts.com/ci/nutritionfacts/Cola/Coca-Cola-20-fl-oz/44984

We’d like our Food Facts friends to weigh in on this issue. Let us know:

1) Is the ban, and others like it that will undoubtedly follow, an infringement on our basic rights? If the New York City government can ban large sized sugary beverages, what other nutrition-based decisions can they go on to force on adult residents?

2) Is the ban a viable way to attempt to control a growing obesity problem in New York and other cities like it?

3) Does the ban actually not go far enough? If we know that the ingredients in soda are actually harmful to our health and that’s true for both diet and sugar-laden beverages, why aren’t governments trying to control the intake of all kinds of drinks? Aspartame is just as controversial as high-fructose corn syrup and phosphoric acid and potassium benzoate certainly don’t qualify as additives we don’t need to worry about.

It’s a fascinating conversation and one that can be looked at from many points of view. As a member of the Food Facts community, we’d like to hear your stance and reasoning. As educated consumers, your opinions are valuable, not only to us, but to all communities and cities considering ways and means to curtail the growing problems of obesity and poor nutrition becoming more and more prevalent in our country every day.