Students not eating 'healthy' cafeteria food

Some high schools in Windsor-Essex have seen a 'significant decline' in the number of students eating at school cafeterias since last September.

Decline in cafeteria business due to provincial healthy eating legislation means decline in school revenue

Area high school students have been leaving schools in search of fast food instead of eating what cafeterias have to offer. (CBC)

Some high schools in Windsor-Essex have seen a "significant decline" in the number of students eating at school cafeterias since last September.

That's according to Jeff Hillman, the superintendent of education with the public school board, who spoke to CBC Windsor's Tony Doucette on the Early Shift on Monday.

The decline is related to new provincial rules that require healthier foods to be served at schools.

Now that healthy foods are the only things on the menu, some high schools in Windsor-Essex have noticed more kids opting to get their French fry fix at local burger joints.

"The spirit of the legislation is not banning kids from eating foods. It's about putting fruits and vegetables and healthy snacks on the table," Hillman said.

That's what local schools have done. Hillman also said French fries are now baked, not fried, for example.

Hillman said the schools the food service providers of cafeterias will "get better" at finding healthy foods kids enjoy.

"I think students will learn, too, to try different things and to give it a shot," Hillman said.

The province's new requirements for food that is lower in fat, sodium and sugar came into effect last September.

Hillman said some schools have "far fewer students" using the cafeteria.

It's not just the bottom line of the companies supplying the food that is suffering. Hillman said the decline in numbers also means less money is going back to the schools because some of the money collected at cafeterias is spent on programs at the schools.

If food money goes down, so does funding for the school, Hillman said.

"It's the kind of funding that a school might use to help send a team to OFSAA or to help a band trip," Hillman said. "So we're certainly committed to working with our schools, but we're having to ask ourselves if the funding model we need to have in place in 2012 might need to be different than the one we've used for the last number of decades."