Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Feds Want to Expel Schools' Junk Food

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Feds Want to Expel Schools' Junk Food

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- To cut down on the soda, snacks and sweets children are eating, the government wants to require that all food sold in schools meets nutrition standards. That could mean an end to soda machines in the hall and candy and cookie sales to buy band uniforms.

The junk food that kids consume at school is contributing to obesity and other health problems, the Agriculture Department said in a report requested by Congress.

The department sets nutrition standards for school lunches and breakfasts, but it would take an act of Congress for it to begin regulating what is served outside the cafeterias.

"You walk outside the door of the cafeteria and the halls are lined with pop machines," said Marilyn Hurt, president of the American School Food Association. "There's nothing to prevent the student from spending their money on pop and candy instead of going in and getting a sandwich, milk and a piece of fruit."

The Agriculture Department says there are nutritional problems with both the snacks being offered in cafeterias and what's being offered in vending machines elsewhere in schools.

"When children are taught in the classroom about good nutrition and the value of healthy food choices but are surrounded by vending machines, snack bars, school stores and a la carte sales offering low nutrient density options, they receive the message that good nutrition is merely an academic exercise," the report says.

Soft drink contracts have become an ever-popular fund-raiser for cash-strapped schools, and cafeterias are also offering an increasing array of items that include snacks, desserts and flavored drinks.

Between 1996 and 1997, more than 30 percent of school districts increased the number of snacks they were offering in cafeterias, and 22 percent widened the array of desserts, a separate USDA report says.

No data were available on sodas sold outside cafeterias, but about 200 of the nation's 12,000 school districts have contracts that give soft drink companies exclusive rights to sell their products in schools, according to the National Soft Drink Association. …

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