Lawmakers Should Discourage Junk Food in Schools, Times Says
While lawmakers "can't reverse children's addiction to junk foods," they should "take modest steps to discourage it," specifically in schools, a Los Angeles Times editorial states. The editorial argues that efforts to boost the nutritional value and quality of foods served in school cafeterias have been "undermined by the rapid growth in the marketing of junk foods to kids on campus." This growth has been fueled by "[l]ucrative contracts" between schools and soft drink and snack food companies, which are a "popular source of money for cash-strapped schools." Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman is currently reviewing a Clinton administration recommendation calling for all snacks sold in schools to meet "stringent" nutritional guidelines passed by the administration in the mid-1990s for the federal school lunch program. However, "no one expects Veneman to endorse the recommendation, which would essentially ban junk food sales," the editorial states. But hope may lie in Congress, the editorial predicts, where support for "more modest" regulation of junk food consumption in schools has emerged among Democrats and Republicans alike. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) plans this week to introduce a bill that would grant the secretary of agriculture the power to ban the sale of junk food before the end of the last lunch period, "restoring...authority that has been in doubt" since a 1983 federal appeals court ruling that the Agriculture Department could only regulate food served in the cafeteria line at meal periods. At a Senate hearing last week, lawmakers also pledged to expand federal support for nutrition programs "whose success has been well established." The editorial suggests that the legislators use California's Food on the Run program as a guide. The program helps schools identify "healthy but ... popular" alternatives to junk food and teaches school administrators how to raise funds by other means than through contracts with snack food companies (Los Angeles Times, 3/12).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.