Soda, sweets and schnitzel nixed from school menus
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Soda, sweets and schnitzel nixed from school menus

Whole-wheat pasta, tofu, low-fat cheeses and healthy salads to be kids’ staples once directive comes into effect

Vegetarian food sold at the Village Green restaurant in Jerusalem, April 17, 2008. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
Vegetarian food sold at the Village Green restaurant in Jerusalem, April 17, 2008. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

Israel’s students will soon see their bourekas, schnitzels and pop replaced by fresh fruits, cheeses and whole-wheat pasta, after the Education Ministry announced a school nutrition reform program Monday.

The guidelines prohibit the selling or serving of sweets, snacks, and sugary or fatty foods to school and kindergarten students throughout Israel.

The ministry directive, issued after a process to reform school diets was begun by former education minister Gideo Sa’ar, listed the types of prohibited food and drink and specified what will be allowed on the menu.

Popular school foods such as malawah (a round, fried puff pastry), schnitzel, processed meats, hot dogs and bourekas (flaky baked pastries with assorted fillings) were to be banned from school cafeterias.

The directive also prohibited the sale of sweet snacks such as chocolate bars, sweet pastries, croissants and candies, as well as energy drinks, sodas, juices and diet drinks.

Shai Piron speaks during a Yesh Atid party meeting at the Knesset on August 2, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Shai Piron speaks during a Yesh Atid party meeting at the Knesset on August 2, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The directive also stated what types of food and drink is permitted in schools.The chocolate spread so widely found in school sandwiches will be replaced with low-fat spreadable cheeses. Avocado, tomato and other fresh vegetables will replace puff pastries. And simple carbohydrates will exit the menu, making way for whole-wheat pasta and bread, fruit and vegetable salads and salad dressings with no more than nine percent fat content.

The mantle of reforming school diets was picked up by Shai Piron, who followed Gideon Sa’ar as education minister after the 2013 Knesset elections. During his tenure as minister, a law was passed determining the fines expected to be imposed on anyone who violates the new guidelines.

The fines include NIS 6,000 ($1,584) for selling prohibited food or drink, and NIS 1,500 ($396) for vendors who do not state the nutritional value of their products.

The new guidelines are to be submitted for the approval of the Knesset Education Committee in the weeks to come.

Once okayed, the ministry directive will come into effect, though the fines were to be implemented only from 2017, to allow for time to adapt to the new rules.

The number of school students who eat a lunch provided by the education system is 200,000, according to the Haaretz daily. The cost of a school lunch ranges between NIS 8 and NIS 12.5 ($2.10 – $3.30).

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