Sept. 11 – On the first day of school, students walked into the cafeteria – some seeking Coca-Cola, others seeking Oreos, and still other raisins. But they encountered a few surprises. Instead of their usual options, there was now coconut water, Florida’s Natural drinks, Special K, and whole-wheat snacks.
The classic sesame chicken disappeared, the salad bar was remodeled, and a new type of granola was added. The popular sodas vanished and were replaced by the “diet” versions and other healthy drink alternatives. As opposed to the 39 grams of sugar that fills the classic Coke, the newly added “Florida’s Natural” and “CocoMax” have only 32 grams and 11.8 grams of sugar respectively.
Junior Katie McAdam sees the benefits of the cafeteria food changes. “I used to complain about all the gross junk that they sold. I’m happy they took them out and started selling healthier food.”
However, not everyone agrees with this point of view. Some students believe that the changes, if anything, were hurtful to our health.
Junior Victoria Radke commented on the replacement of the sodas. “Making our drinks ‘diet’ does not make us any healthier,” she states. “The chemicals in it are even worse than normal soda.”
Junior Priya Baichoo agrees, suggesting, “If they really wanted to make a change, they should have just gotten rid of it all.”
Both Miguel Valiao, a sophomore, and Ankita Chowdhry, a senior, say the changes weren’t significant enough to initially notice.
But unknown to the majority of students, even more changes than they thought were initiated this year.
Richard Hogan, the Head of the Food Services Department at SAS, shares that there is a High School Food committee that consists of students, teachers, himself, and Deputy Principal Doug Neihart.
Since last school year, through the new “Whole School Food Plan,” the committee has been trying to promote the health and wellbeing of the high school students. This includes using better quality oil, reducing the amount of salt in food, and adding whole-grain versions of bread-based snacks.
The committee started with gradual food changes at the end of last school year. As the committee received no negative feedback from the students, they decided to continue with the rest of the changes this year.
Even now, there haven’t been any complaints about the changes in the food. This could be because many students aren’t aware that the food they’re eating is any different.
“That’s kind of a good sign,” Hogan said. “Students are eating healthier and we’re not getting any negative feedback from them.”
Hogan explains that the goal of this food plan is to provide the best for the health and wellbeing of the students of SAS. Consequently, it would only make sense to stop selling one of the most unhealthy items in the HS cafeteria: the sugary, chemical-filled sodas.
“We try as much as we can to follow the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) guidelines,” Hogan said. “They allow the ‘diet’ drinks, but not the regular sodas.” When told about the students’ negative opinion on the “diet” drinks, Hogan claimed that it’s not a proven fact that they are more unhealthy.
According to Susan Swithers, a behavioral neuroscientist and professor of psychological sciences, “researchers found that just like with regular sodas, the consumption of sweetened beverages like diet soda is also associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease.”
The students affected by these changes should have nothing more to worry about. The process of the Whole School Food Plan seems to be complete in the High School, and no additional changes will be made this year.
As for the students hoping to see the sodas back in the glass cases, it looks like it’s time to start embracing Florida’s Natural and CocoMax.