Attention high school football fans in Maine: B.Y.O.C. – Bring your own Coke.
The Portland Public School system will no longer allow soft drinks to be sold on school property – including at high school football games. School officials are also banning the sale of gridiron staples like buttered popcorn and potato chips.
Instead, football fans will be encouraged to nosh on baked tortilla chips, reduced fat string cheese and hummus.
The total ban on the sale of soft drinks is part of a new policy governing the sales of healthy foods and beverages, said Chanda Turner, Portland’s school health coordinator.
“We’re taking it to another level,” Turner told Fox News. “We’re not going to sell soda and it doesn’t matter who it’s to.”
The school system released a statement online stating that “diet influences students’ ability to learn, and they aim to ensure that food offered at schools and school events support student achievement.”
The far-reaching policy covers food and beverages served at sporting events, staff parties, and school celebrations. Soft drinks will no longer be sold in the faculty lounge.
Parents will no longer be allowed to bring cupcakes to celebrate birthday parties. Teachers will no longer be allowed to reward students with a cookie or brownie.
“Using food as a reward for behavior and achievement can encourage unhealthy habits later in life,” the school system said in a statement on its website.
Instead, teachers will be encouraged to reward boys and girls with an eraser, a sticker or “taking a walk with a special staff person.”
Turner said food sold during the school day must meet the USDA’s Healthier US Schools Challenge minimum nutrition standards at the Gold Award level. But they are also applying strict standards to food and beverages sold after hours.
“If it’s a school organization or a school group doing the selling, then they need to meet some minimum nutrition standards,” she told Fox News.
In other words, Mr. Pibb and Coca Cola are now banned.
Instead, the district said booster clubs are allowed to sell water, coffee, tea, 100 percent fruit juice or flavored waters that don’t exceed 66 calories per eight ounces. Beverages are not allowed in a container larger than 12 ounces.
The school district also placed restrictions on pre-packaged foods. Regular potato chips are not allowed. However, baked potato chips are okay.
Among other items approved for sale at sporting events are whole-grain soft pretzels, fruit, sunflower seeds reduced fat string cheese, air-popped popcorn and vegetables.
Turner said prepared foods like burgers and hot dogs are still allowed but only if vendors provide a healthy alternative. For example, if you sell a cheeseburger, you have to provide whole fruit.
“You can have pizza but try to make it whole grain and lower fat cheese,” she said. “Find that balance.”
So what about nachos?
Turner said it depends.
“During the school day it would have to meet the school lunch standards,” she said. “It’s a much more complicated formula. If you’re talking about a tortilla chip that’s baked, if you’re talking about a cheese sauce made more naturally, perhaps with low fat (cheese), I could see where you might be able to get nachos that meet (the guidelines). But you’d have to do a lot of work to do that.”
The policy has earned praise from the Portland Press Herald. The newspaper’s editorial board congratulated the school system for “instituting a pro-family, pro-student health policy.”
But the policy does have its critics and a number sounded off on the local newspaper’s website.
“Are they going to frisk for soda at the gate,” asked one reader. “These feel-good, know-it-all infiltrators are wrong.”
“Today it’s soda, next it will be something else and then something else,” another reader wrote. “They nanny-staters nibble away at our freedoms and for the most part we stand by and say, ‘Oh, it’s only soda.’”
Turner defended the policy against accusations the school system overstepped its boundaries.
“We are not making any restrictions on personal choice,” Turner told Fox News. “The only thing we are affecting is – what are we as a school system going to sell or provide.”
She said students and faculty are still allowed to bring their own soft drinks purchased off campus.
“It’s not a complete restriction on anything considered non-healthy,” she said. “We didn’t want to go too far. We tried to find a nice happy medium.”