Eliminating Junk Food in Schools


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This article was reposted with permission from Food Safety News.

With the passage of the Healthy, Hungry-Free Kids Act of 2010, in addition to improving school meals, Congress required the U.S. Department of Agriculture to update nearly nonexistent nutrition standards on so-called competitive foods. These are foods sold outside the school meal program, including fast food items sold alongside the reimbursable lunches, and soft drinks and junk food sold in vending machines, school stores, fundraisers, and the like.Junk Food in School

As I wrote about in my book, the issue of unhealthy beverages and junk food in schools has been a contentious one for years, mostly being fought at the state and local levels. While it’s commendable that the federal government is now taking up the issue, I have some serious concerns about the feasibility of an approach that essentially endorses healthier junk food while allowing corporations continued unfettered access to children in schools.

That’s why I have submitted comments on behalf of the Center for Food Safety, endorsed by several other organizations and experts, to ask that USDA assist schools with eliminating fast food, vending and other competitive foods from schools altogether. Below are a few highlights from those comments. (You can read the entire document here.)

Competitive foods financially undermine the school meal program

Congress’ clear intent with the federally subsidized school lunch and breakfast programs is to ensure millions of schoolchildren are well-nourished. However, the ongoing presence of competitive food in schools undermines these programs financially. Indeed the very term “competitive” underscores this problem. According to school chef Ann Cooper: “Students should be eating healthy complete meals; the opportunity to opt-out by purchasing competitive food is actually counter to the mission of the National School Lunch Program.”




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