School nutrition education put to the test at Osan
OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — As elementary and secondary school officials throughout the Pacific launch a new healthy eating initiative this fall, students at Osan’s middle and high school will have the opportunity to order fast food for lunch.
In classrooms in South Korea, Japan and Okinawa, students will learn about nutrition and keeping physically fit, part of compliance with a federal law that requires all public schools to adopt wellness policies, spokesmen for Department of Defense Dependents Schools and the U.S. Department of Agriculture said last week.
At the same time, the Osan school’s food vendor, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, is planning to sell and deliver Pizza Hut pizzas and Subway sandwiches — some of which contains high levels of fat and calories — to the cafeteria at lunchtime, according to AAFES officials.
The change comes as two fast-food restaurants near the school are scheduled for demolition, part of a $20.7 million project that expands the high school and adds a new middle school, an Osan spokeswoman said.
The 400 students at Osan’s middle and high school are allowed to leave campus for lunch, and in the past many would cross the street to dine at Burger King, Popeye’s or the commissary, according to school and AAFES officials.
Because the restaurants will be razed, the number of students eating lunch at Osan’s middle and high school is expected to quadruple, according to Steven Pena, the top official for AAFES at Osan.
Last year, the school served an average of 70 meals each day at lunchtime. Now, as many as 300 hungry students are expected to stay on campus, Pena said.
School officials say they hope the additional education about nutrition will help students make good choices about eating. AAFES officials say they are just offering the students options.
“That’s the ability of AAFES — to provide a choice to students on campus,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Donovan Potter, a spokesman for AAFES, which provides food for all elementary and secondary schools on overseas military bases.
AAFES, not school administrators, has the ultimate say over what food is served at the schools, according to Potter. AAFES must get approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture on the nutritional value of foods served through the government’s free and reduced lunch program, he said.
But other “a la carte” food served on campus — such as vending-machine snacks, hamburgers and fries from an additional short-order line or items delivered from fast-food chains — does not need to meet the USDA’s nutritional requirements, according to Potter and Jack Currie of the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service.
When asked how the delivery of fast food would fit into the overall wellness policy, DODDS Pacific spokesman Charles Steitz wrote in an e-mailed response that “students have the option of purchasing food during their lunch time from various restaurants adjacent to our schools. By providing our students with the best in health and wellness education we hope they will select foods that remain high in nutritional value.”
When asked whether anyone at DODDS was considering asking AAFES to cut the Pizza Hut and Subway delivery service, Steitz said the matter is being discussed but no decision had been made.
“We are working with AAFES representatives to ensure our students receive a variety of healthy and nutritional choices,” he wrote.
AAFES already offers hamburgers, cheeseburgers, pepperoni pizza, cold sandwiches and french fries on a regular basis in school lunchrooms, according to AAFES officials.