USDA Targets Soda, Sweets in Report on School Food
To help eliminate obesity and other health problems, the USDA recommended in a report to Congress that only foods that meet nutritional standards be sold in schools, the AP/Florida Times Union reports. While the department has authority over the nutritional standards for school lunches and breakfasts, it would require congressional action to extend that authority outside cafeterias, where sodas, snacks and sweets are sold. Marilyn Hunt, president of the American School Food Service Association, said, "You walk outside the door of the cafeteria and the halls are lined with pop machines. There's nothing to prevent the students from spending their money on pop and candy instead of going in and getting a sandwich, milk and a piece of fruit." In addition, about 200 school districts across the country have contracts with soft drink manufacturers that give the companies exclusive rights to sell their products in the schools. Charles County, Md., for example, gave Coca-Cola Co "exclusive rights to sell its products in county schools" in exchange for $175,000 a year and 45% of the sales. These arrangements have become popular for "cash strapped" schools. In 1977 the USDA imposed restrictions on soda sales in schools, but a court overturned the rules in 1983. The report said: "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 was completed in the "final days" of the Clinton administration. Newly appointed Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman is reviewing the findings (AP/Florida Times Union, 2/7). The report is available online at http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/Lunch/CompetitveFoods/competitive.foods.report.to.congress.htmThis is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.