When legislation falls short, speak up

Sometimes legislation, no matter how well-intentioned, falls short of its goals.
A good example of this is the Healthy Foods For Healthy Schools Act, which is intended to help promote healthy eating habits in students by banning trans-fats and other food choices that are deemed unhealthy by the government.
There’s no doubt the act has the best of intentions. It was brought in to counter an obesity epidemic in our schools and to promote healthy food choices for students.
Unfortunately, it has led to declining revenues for schools through their cafeterias and has encouraged many high school students to make much less healthy decisions by forcing them off-campus for meals that meet their needs.
These shortcomings came to my attention earlier this year as I met with students from Dryden High School who were upset with the way the act was interfering with their freedom of choice.
Rather than promote and educate about healthy food choices, the act imposed seemingly ridiculous choices upon the students, such as limiting the amount of pickles and vegetables—yes, vegetables—they were allowed to have on a submarine sandwich.
It limited the sauces they could use and even required cookies to be cut into smaller portion sizes while allowing students to purchase an unlimited number of these smaller 18-cent cookies.
As a result, students no longer were purchasing their lunch in the cafeteria. Instead, they would walk down the road and purchase fast food, which is much less healthy than the choices they were allowed to make a year or two ago.
In short, the Healthy Foods For Healthy Schools Act may be well-intentioned, but its implementation is coming up far short of its goals. That is why I asked the students to write letters to the minister of education, and why I will be presenting a petition circulated by those students in Queen’s Park asking the government to take a look at this act and its unintended consequences.
The Healthy Foods For Healthy Schools Act is a good example of well-intentioned legislation with unintended negative consequences.
More often than not, “bad” legislation is faulty by design—governments taking shortcuts or the easy way by implementing half-measures. Regardless of whether legislation is bad from the start or implemented poorly, if it is deficient it should be changed.
These students chose to speak up and do something. They chose to use their voice to push for change and that is something we all should do.
Speaking out is no guarantee of success, but remaining silent is a surefire way to ensure nothing is done to rectify the situation.