Jul. 13, 2011
BOSTON — Massachusetts school children will no longer be able to buy soda or chips from the vending machine.
On Wednesday, the state's Public Health Council passed new regulations banning fried food, sugary drinks and artifical sweeteners from public schools. They also put limits on the amount of salt and fat in foods.
The Massachusetts' Department of Public Health's Dr. Lauren Smith says one third of Massachusetts' schoolchildren are currently obese, and the new rules are meant to help counteract that problem.
"Because children spend so much time at school, and many children in fact eat 2 meals a day at school, these school nutrition standards will be important in creating the kind of environment that promotes healthy choices and helps kids learn how to make healthy choices," Smith said.
But she added school nutrition isn't the only way to counteract childhood obesity.
"Schools aren’t going to be the only answer to addressing what is clearly a very important problem. But they clearly have to be part of the approach to the problem," Smith said.
The rules apply to food sold in vending machines, snack bars and a la carte offerings in cafeterias. They do not apply to food served in the main cafeteria line, because those meals are regulated by the federal government.
State officials say the new standars are some of the toughest in the country. They will go into effect in the 2012-2013 school year.
Michelle commented on 07.14.11
All well and good to limit the food kids can buy at school, but without exercise, limiting food choices isn't going to help much. Increasing gym classes and encouraging kids to play actively at recess would have more lasting positive effects than making sugar and fat "forbidden foods". And, in additional to the benefits for their bodies, many studies have shown that kids THINK, LEARN, and TEST better when they have had daily physical activity (Hey - maybe if we can convince our schools that it could raise their MCAS scores, they might be willing to increase the number of gym classes they offer!) I truly believe that by focusing only on food, without making PHYSICAL ACTIVITY a priority at both our schools and at home, obesity will continue to be a serious issue in this state. P.S. - We all make our own choices about physical activity at home, and nobody is legislating that. But while they are legislating food, why aren't they encouraging the schools to do more with physical activity too? When I was in elementary school, we had gym 3 times a week. We had balls, jump ropes, and lots of room to run at recess. If teachers saw "bored-looking kids", they helped organize some active games or encouraged kids to join a game or jump rope line. Now many elementary school kids are lucky to have gym once a week. After parents at our elementary school repeatedly complained, the PTO bought balls and jump ropes for recess. The kids only saw the balls for about a week. Nobody could figure out how to share the balls between grades and recess periods, so they stopped offering them! Additionally, the teachers fussed that the jump ropes had too much potential for problems (i.e. they actually had to supervise the children when they used them), so they didn't offer them to the kids at all. I know it is extra work, and it costs money to offer more gym classes, but I think that increasing opportunities for our kids to engage in physical activity at school should be a higher priority than turning our schools into the "food police".