Representative Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) is introducing a bill to Congress that would finally get junk foods out of our schools, addressing skyrocketing childhood obesity rates and bringing school nutrition standards forward 40 years.
“Despite pockets of progress in some states and school systems, most schools make junk food readily available to children. But junk food in schools helps fuel an epidemic of obesity and diabetes in children. And, it undercuts the considerable federal investment we make in the healthy school lunch program.” – Margo Wootan, Center for Science in the Public Interest nutrition policy director
The Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act is an amendment to the Child Nutrition Act of 1966. The amendment will have the USDA update the nutrition standards for foods sold throughout school campuses, including vending machines and school stores, and will probably be addressed as Congress looks to reauthorize the soon-to-expire Act.
Because the current federal standards only prohibit “foods of minimal nutritional value” in cafeterias during mealtimes, children still have access to junk foods elsewhere on campus. The standards for those foods have not been updated since 1979, and kids can replace or add to their school lunch with sodas, sports drinks, and candy bars, as well as low-nutrition foods such as french fries or pizza.
“Current nutrition standards keep some junk food out of our schools but let other junk food in through the back door. Today, doughnuts are allowed but lollipops are not. Cookies are fine, but breath mints are banned. This doesn’t make any sense. It undermines the federal nutrition standards for meals if students spend their money on unhealthy options. It also undermines the role of parents who give lunch money to their children expecting them to eat something wholesome and nutritious and their money is spent on unhealthy options instead.” – Rep. Woolsey
The bill is backed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the National PTA, the American Dental Association, American Diabetes Association, American Dietetic Association, American Heart Association, Partnership for Prevention, Save the Children, and School Nutrition Association, and has 88 cosponsors.
“Many of the foods being sold to our students on school grounds undermine federal investment in healthy school meals, nutrition education, and the lifelong lessons that parents teach their children about healthy eating habits,” “Families and local leaders have successfully advocated to remove unhealthy alternatives from some schools, but it is time for national leadership on this issue.” – Jan Harp Domene – National PTA President
President Obama’s proposed budget includes an increase of $1 billion per year for child nutrition, encompassing the WIC program and school lunch and breakfast programs. His economic stimulus package also includes $100 million for upgrading school cafeteria equipment, which may help to support healthy school luch choices.
Image: colros at Flickr under Creative Commons