Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Junk food junked?

by student BoG rep Darren Peets

About a month ago, UBC was informed of a new provincial policy on the sale of food and drinks from vending machines. In essence, this policy expands the junk food restrictions already in place in schools to all hospitals, universities, colleges, Crown Agencies, provincial government buildings, and so on. Food is sorted by its nutritional value into four categories, helpfully named Not Recommended, Choose Least, Choose Sometimes, and Choose Most. At least 50% of all food and beverage choices from any bank of vending machines must be Choose Most, while Not Recommended and Choose Least are forbidden. The intent is to steer people toward healthier food.

My understanding is that this takes effect August 1, 2007, and that UBC has already been asked for conformance reports. At this point, it's not backed up by legislation, but as with many provincial directives, it will be if necessary -- noncompliance would only result in a few months of freedom and a needless fight with the Province.

There is one noteworthy exemption to the policy: student residence. Through a form of logic that escapes me, the Province has decided that students living in residence either eat healthier food than those who don't, or simply don't matter as much. The fate of vending machines in the SUB is unclear, as the SUB seems to be described by both the exemptions and inclusions sections of the policy.

For example, candies and chocolates are categorized as follows: Almost everything is Not Recommended, Choose Least includes some very small packages of candies, chocolates or dessert gelatines, Choose Sometimes includes sugar-free gum, mints or cough drops and diabetic candies, and Choose Most need not apply. A handful of energy bars pass muster (some even make the top category), but low-carb, low-protein and just plain large energy bars, and any with sugar as the first ingredient or added fats aren't allowed.

The full policy is available from

My initial feeling was indignation that we were being treated like children, but given that doctors and nurses are too, I'm a bit less annoyed about it now, and I doubt it's worth UBC fighting. I'm curious what everyone else thinks, though.