Monday, May 23, 2005

One State's Junk Food Ban: It's The Real Thing

It looks as though a state is finally going to pass a meaningful law against "junk food" in its public schools:

Lawmakers want to make sure Connecticut students aren't part of the Pepsi Generation. Connecticut is on the verge of adopting the most far-reaching ban in the country on soda and junk food in public schools, in an effort to curb rising rates of childhood obesity.

Similar but weaker proposals have been introduced in at least 17 states this year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Policies are on the books in a few states, such as Arkansas and California.

Advocates say Connecticut's ban would be the strongest because it is so broad, applying to all grades and all school sites where food is sold.

"Connecticut would be the first state to apply those standards to high schools," said Margo Wootan, director of nutritional policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest. "Most of the recently passed policies are limited in that they only apply to elementary and middle schools."

The soft drink companies lobbied tirelessly against the law, while high school many schools were more concerned about the loss of revenue.

In the end, the lawmakers decided to allow the sales of diet soft drinks and "sports drinks" in high schools. (I'm suspicious of "sports" drinks; many are highly sweetened.)

As a teacher in California, I can affirm that the law that we have has so many loopholes in it as to be completely ineffective. For example, even though the school isn't supposed to sell junk food to kids at lunchtime, by splitting hairs they get around the law by selling the snacks only to those kids that have a "stamp" on their hands indicating that they've already gone through the lunch line.

What that often means at our school is that students on government-subsidized free lunches will often go through the line, get their hand "stamped" by an administrator, throw the lunch away, and then head over to the student store in order to buy sweets and so-called "nutritional drinks" that are loaded with sugar.
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