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Legislators Fail to Put Schools on a Diet (page 2)

Legislators Fail to Put Schools on a Diet

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Updated on Mar 6, 2009

But in addition to reflecting what we've learned, Wootan says our new policies need to correct a growing and disturbing trend among children: obesity. “In the 1970's, our biggest concerns were vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and dental cavities. Now there's childhood obesity and high cholesterol that are clearly linked to nutrition,” she says.

To be fair, there are some limits on the junk food currently being sold. For example, they've put the vending machine outside the cafeteria, so that kids will have to walk an extra three feet to score their chocolate bar.

The one ray of light is that huge strides have been made in improving the nutritional quality of school lunches over the last decade; reducing the amount of fat, salt and cholesterol dished out to kids during lunch time. Wootan says the next step is to get rid of the typical vending machine fare that competes with those healthy meals. “If you offer kids a choice between a brownie and an apple, it's not hard to imagine what they would pick,” Wootan says.

So, where were our lawmakers when this amendment fell on their desks last year? Wootan says there are complicated procedures to manage a huge bill like the Farm Bill, and it's no surprise that this small, albeit important, amendment was lost in the shuffle. Even the best ideas introduced in the Senate take years to pass. The good news is that the Child Nutrition Promotion Act is closer to getting passed now than it ever was. Careful negotiation has garnered the support of national consumer and education groups, and industry giants like Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Co, and Frito-Lay. “The issue of school foods has really evolved over the last five years, from when the food and beverage industry fought us every step of the way, to finally recognizing that schools are a unique place where the food environment should be different,” Wootan says.

Even though the effort has been dropped this time around, the concept isn't about to fade into the background. With 140 cosponsors in the house and senate, plus the support of the food and beverage industry, Wootan says schools may see an upgrade in nutrition standards in as little as a year.

If you feel strongly about this bill and would like to contact your congressional members, go to www.congress.org and type in your zip code.

For more information about child nutrition visit the nutrition section of the Center for Science in the Public Interest at www.cspinet.org/nutritionpolicy

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