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Congress looks to ban junk food in schools

Old 12-03-07, 01:13 AM
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Congress looks to ban junk food in schools

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/n...,1972173.story

Congress is considering the broadest effort ever to limit what children eat: a national ban on selling candy, sugary soda and salty, fatty food in school snack bars, vending machines and a la carte cafeteria lines.

Whether the measure, an amendment to the farm bill, can survive the convoluted politics that have bogged down that legislation in the Senate is one issue. Whether it can survive the battle among factions in the fight to improve school food is another.

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the chairman of the Agriculture Committee, has twice before introduced bills to deal with foods other than the standard school lunch, which is regulated by U.S. Agriculture Department.

Several lawmakers and advocates for changes in school food believe that an amendment to the $286 billion farm bill is the best chance to get control of the mountain of high-calorie snacks and sodas available to school children. Even if the farm bill does not pass, Harkin and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who is also sponsoring the amendment, vow to keep reintroducing it in other forms until it sticks.

They are optimistic about their chances because there is more public interest than ever in improving school food and because leaders in the food and beverage industry have had a hand in creating the new standards.

But that intense corporate involvement, along with exemptions that would allow sales of chocolate milk, sports drinks and diet soda, has caused a rift among food activists who usually find themselves on the same side of school food battles.

"This pits ideals about what children should eat at school against the political reality of large food corporations insisting their foods be available to children at all times," said Dr. Marion Nestle, a professor at New York University and the author of two recent books on food politics and diet. "The activists want vending machines out of schools completely," said Nestle, who has taken no public stand on the measure.

The nutrition standards would allow only plain bottled water and 8-ounce servings of fruit juice or plain or flavored low-fat milk with up to 170 calories to be sold in elementary and middle schools. High school students could also buy diet soda or, in places like school gyms, sports drinks. Other drinks with as many as 66 calories per 8 ounces could be sold in high schools, but that threshold would drop to 25 calories per 8-ounce serving in five years.

Food for sale would have to be limited in saturated and trans fat and have less than 35 percent sugar. Sodium would be limited, and snacks must have no more than 180 calories per serving for middle and elementary schools and 200 calories for high schools students.

The standards would not affect occasional fundraising projects, like Girl Scout cookie sales. Although states would not be able to pass stronger restrictions, individual school districts could.

The rules have the support of food and drink manufacturers, including the American Beverage Association, which worked closely on the amendment with Harkin's office and the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group that has been critical of the food industry.

"This whole effort has momentum because of the variety of interests that have come together who do not usually find agreement," said Susan Neely, president of the American Beverage Association.

The proposed ban has its roots in a voluntary agreement last year by the makers of sodas and other sugary drinks to stop selling high-caloric beverages in schools. The Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a collaboration of the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation, pieced the deal together.

The new proposal sets a uniform standard that makes it easier for food and beverage manufacturers to develop products specifically for schools. "From any national organization's perspective, what you want is consistency. You want to be able to plan," said Neely. "You don't want a piecemeal patchwork quilt kind of market."

Some parents and nutritionists are angry that states will not be allowed to enact even tougher standards.

"My little fights in school districts are just going to be harder and harder because they'll say, Well, here are the federal guidelines," said Susan Rubin of Chappaqua, N.Y., a nutritionist who helped found the Better School Food advocacy group.


Rubin and others believe that much of the highly processed food made by large manufacturers has no place in schools at all. "It's crazy to think we are going to fix children's health just by letting companies sell school children smaller portions of Gatorade and baked chips," she said.

Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, has long been a critic of companies that produce food that she considers unhealthy and of government policy toward them.

That is why some of the center's allies were surprised that Wootan had worked so closely with manufacturers on the standards. Conversely, Wootan was surprised to find herself on the defensive for finally arranging food limits that actually have a good chance at becoming law.

"I do not understand why some groups would try to stand in the way of legislation that is going to get soda, snack cakes and other high-fat, high-salt food out of virtually all schools," she said.

She offers a long list of supporters that includes the American Association of School Administrators, the National PTA and the American Medical Association.

Politics is about compromise, she said. "You don't go from soda and Ho Hos in school to only apples and water overnight," she said. "That change happens over time."
I actually think that most of this misses the point. I've been beating my head against the wall in my own district trying to get the lunch menu changed. Here is a partial list of the entrees on the menu:
Hamburger
Chickenburger
Hot dog
Corn dog
Pizza
Chili Cheese Nachos
Chicken nuggets
Beef Dippers (ewwww!)

These all meet the federal guidelines for caloric intake, etc. However, there is an obvious problem with these foods. Every one of them essentially trains our kids to eat fast food as a meal on a daily basis. And the cooks love them because you just through a bunch of frozen food in the oven and turn on the timer.

But I maintain that this contributes far more to childhood obesity than vending machines and pop machines. I favor getting rid of those in schools, but I don't think it will have any affect anyway. Once the kids are out on their own, we have effectively taught them that an "acceptable/healthy" lunch consists of the exact same things you can get in the drive-thru of most any fast food place in America. That is the problem.

All the money that goes into PE from the feds hasn't had any real progress towards childhood obesity. There are small pockets of progress, but they would be far better off spending money on fudning for lunch programs that would only serve things you don't find on a fast food menu.

I make my kids' lunches every day. I don't know what it will do for them, but I know that when I started, they really missed the chili cheese nachos.

Anyway, that is my rant for this week.
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Old 12-03-07, 08:23 AM
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Heh, I half expected to come in here to argue against you not wanting a ban on these foods. I agree 100%. I think we're about to go through a food revolution in the U.S. More and more people now are aware of the dangers of food processing and preservation. I would wager that well over 50% of the foods in supermarkets (excluding the produce and fresh meat sections) is NOT healthy for frequent consumption.
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Old 12-03-07, 08:28 AM
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pop?


I remember my friend who is a teacher talking about how much money the school makes from the vending machines and how she thought they'd never get rid of them because of that.

I agree with you that the food in the cafeteria should change too
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Old 12-03-07, 08:37 AM
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I think there's a porn movie called Beef Dippers.
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Old 12-03-07, 08:46 AM
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The Nanny State at work.
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Old 12-03-07, 08:47 AM
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Originally Posted by Venusian
pop?


I remember my friend who is a teacher talking about how much money the school makes from the vending machines and how she thought they'd never get rid of them because of that.

I agree with you that the food in the cafeteria should change too
from what i remember vending machines in schools only came around in the early 1990's after the last housing bubble put pressure on property tax revenues and schools were looking for some stream of money without raising property taxes due to the near revolts in a few states like NJ
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Old 12-03-07, 08:48 AM
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The segment of Supersize Me that deals with this is the best part of the movie (and should have been the main theme, IMHO).

I don't want junk food vending machines in schools, that's for sure. But I also don't think it's the role of the federal government to ban them.
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Old 12-03-07, 08:58 AM
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Originally Posted by Groucho
The segment of Supersize Me that deals with this is the best part of the movie (and should have been the main theme, IMHO).

I definitely agree with this. The rest of it was a load of crap.
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Old 12-03-07, 09:05 AM
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Originally Posted by Red Dog
The Nanny State at work.
Although I certainly share your views on the nanny state, this particular aspect doesn't bother me too much. If you accept federal funds you should expect federal meddling. Now, the article didn't specify, but does this apply only to public schools, or those that take federal dollars? That I'd be fine with.
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Old 12-03-07, 11:32 AM
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Originally Posted by wendersfan
Although I certainly share your views on the nanny state, this particular aspect doesn't bother me too much. If you accept federal funds you should expect federal meddling. Now, the article didn't specify, but does this apply only to public schools, or those that take federal dollars? That I'd be fine with.


with the exception of this part: 'Although I certainly share your views on the nanny state.....'
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Old 12-03-07, 11:59 AM
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If it is like other school lunch funding programs, it only applies to those that take money for lunch programs and not in other areas. Part of that program now says that if you have a lunch program you must have a breakfast program. Many small schools in my county can't afford to have the breakfast program (the money pays per student, so they can't afford to pay for people and food for 10 students), so they have had to drop the lunch program because they can't afford the breakfast. Pretty stupid.

I also don't like the nanny state thing, and I don't have much problem with schools having vending machines etc. I think all of ours are juice machines, but I think the local boards should have that control. Though, I suppose they do when you consider they can opt not to take the money.

I have 2 years left on the board until I'm done, and this is the one thing I hope to accomplish.
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Old 12-03-07, 12:24 PM
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I guess with the amount of money I have to give to the government, I should expect some babysitting services out of them...
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Old 12-03-07, 12:27 PM
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Originally Posted by kvrdave
If it is like other school lunch funding programs, it only applies to those that take money for lunch programs and not in other areas. Part of that program now says that if you have a lunch program you must have a breakfast program. Many small schools in my county can't afford to have the breakfast program (the money pays per student, so they can't afford to pay for people and food for 10 students), so they have had to drop the lunch program because they can't afford the breakfast. Pretty stupid.

I also don't like the nanny state thing, and I don't have much problem with schools having vending machines etc. I think all of ours are juice machines, but I think the local boards should have that control. Though, I suppose they do when you consider they can opt not to take the money.

I have 2 years left on the board until I'm done, and this is the one thing I hope to accomplish.
some of the things they call juice now are as bad as junk food
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Old 12-03-07, 12:55 PM
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Originally Posted by wendersfan
Although I certainly share your views on the nanny state, this particular aspect doesn't bother me too much. If you accept federal funds you should expect federal meddling. Now, the article didn't specify, but does this apply only to public schools, or those that take federal dollars? That I'd be fine with.

What if a conservative DoEd made federal funding contingent on local schools administering abstinence-only sex education?
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Old 12-03-07, 01:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Red Dog
What if a conservative DoEd made federal funding contingent on local schools administering abstinence-only sex education?
Then maybe some liberals would wake up to the fact that federal funding isn't always the panacea they think it is?

In other words, I would feel the same as I do with this - I don't like the policy, but accept that this is what happens when you let the federal government get involved in every aspect of your life.
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Old 12-03-07, 01:31 PM
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You can decline federal funding. If you google schools that have declined NCLB finding, it is quite high and growing. Pretty stupid because if you do poorly, they give you more money. We have looked at that.
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Old 12-03-07, 10:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Groucho
The segment of Supersize Me that deals with this is the best part of the movie (and should have been the main theme, IMHO).

I don't want junk food vending machines in schools, that's for sure. But I also don't think it's the role of the federal government to ban them.
Agreed.

I think it would be better to focus on improving the lunch program itself, first (like kvrdave says in the first post). It doesn't do much good to get kids eating less junk food if they're eating what is essentially fast food for lunch.
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Old 12-03-07, 11:05 PM
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Well, I have a little more faith in the system. The first time I brought this up at a board meeting I was dismissed by nearly everyone. I was finally told that "it looks like congress is doing some things, so let's see how that shakes out." That's code for "shut the fuck up" in politics.

But at tonights work session, another board member brought up my concerns and said he had bee thinking about them, and we need to start looking at change. Another agreed. And it happens to be my turn to be chair for a year, so I might just be able to get something done. I sure hope so. Do this, get the hell off the board, and enjoy Monday Night Football again.
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Old 12-03-07, 11:40 PM
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Sounds great to me, but the problem, is we have fast-food restaurants and convenience stores, built on the same block as the schools (in some cases). So, I'm all for the ban, but the kids are going to get it while they sneak out for break or lunch.
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Old 12-04-07, 12:07 AM
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I'm actually okay with that. If they do that of their own free will, you can't pin it on me. I just don't want to feel like I contributed to the problem by training them to think those things are part of a good lunch.
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Old 12-04-07, 01:34 AM
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Well, that's a good point. If the US Gov't can create this kind of continuity throughout the entire school system, I'm all for it. Watching kids go to Burgerville and Wendy's for lunch is just weird to me. My parents or myself made most of my lunches, and on Friday's, I got a fruit pie!
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Old 12-04-07, 02:49 AM
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Well since the Rich of America can "pre-pay" their pollution and rape of the environment with "Carbon credits", I wonder if they'll have "Junk food credits"?
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Old 12-04-07, 06:58 AM
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Well, at least Congress is now focusing on the important issues of our time.
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Old 12-04-07, 07:01 AM
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Hey cool, more money for the kids who make a side business out of re-selling candy purchased at Costco at a 200+% markup!

(that's what happened at my junior high, which had no vending machines, and at my high school, which had limited ones)
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Old 12-04-07, 07:24 AM
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Originally Posted by wildcatlh
Hey cool, more money for the kids who make a side business out of re-selling candy purchased at Costco at a 200+% markup!

(that's what happened at my junior high, which had no vending machines, and at my high school, which had limited ones)
Ah, the old unintended consequences.
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