New York City Department of Education
School Nutrition We examined whether the New York City Department of Education (DoE) ensures that the food that is made available to students during the school day meets established nutritional guidelines and promotes healthy eating habits among the students. We identified widespread non-compliance with DoE requirements promoting good nutritional practices in New York City’s public schools. For example, only approved nutritional items may be sold in school stores and vending machines, and to prevent competition with school lunches, none of these items may be sold either before or during a school’s lunch periods. However, at 20 of the 30 schools in our sample, school stores and/or vending machines were routinely selling items during the schools’ lunch periods, in direct competition with the lunches, and at 21 of the 30 schools, many of these items had not been approved for sale because they were non-nutritional items such as candy and high-fat/sugar snacks.
We found that the Principals at the non-compliant schools were generally aware of their schools’ non-compliance, as were responsible DoE officials. However, the officials were either unwilling, or felt unable, to bring the schools into compliance, mainly because the money from the sale of the competitive foods was used to subsidize extracurricular activities at the schools. By allowing unrestricted quantities of non-nutritional items to be readily available to students throughout the school day, and by actively promoting, in some cases, the sale of such items, New York City’s public schools have seriously undermined their efforts to promote healthy eating habits among the students. We recommend DoE’s oversight in this important area of school operations be significantly strengthened.
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