Monday, April 30, 2007

Spitzer bill would ban junk food in schools


This bill should go along way in fighting little kids being so overweight....a nationwhide problem..............andy

The once-popular school lunch of greasy chips, snack cakes and soda, already on the run for years from school cafeterias, would go the way of lead pencils under a new plan by Gov. Eliot Spitzer.
With public concern growing by the day over childhood obesity, Spitzer wants to turn up nutritional standards for food and beverages served in public schools, inside and outside the cafeteria.
Spitzer's Healthy Food Act would eliminate soda and most junk food; set limits for fat, sugar and sodium; designate a minimum amount of time for students to eat lunch; require a daily recess period for students in eighth grade and under; and call for better nutrition education.
Assemblywoman Sandra Galef, D-Ossining, who has had a similar bill for several years, said she hoped Spitzer's support would help bring healthier food to New York's schools.
"I think we have a really good opportunity to get something done this year," she said. "We have to get healthier foods in schools. Certainly, we're looking at fresh fruits and vegetables, but also granola bars, yogurt, fat-free puddings and those kinds of things. And baked chips - in smaller packages."
Even though schools have been improving their main cafeteria offerings, Galef said, students who skip their salads can often turn to the a la carte section of the cafeteria, the vending machines outside or school stores where candy is sold.
"The big culprit with childhood obesity is those vending machines," she said.
Spitzer's plan, which he released Saturday, would restrict school-day snacks to fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat or nonfat dairy items. Additional snacks could be purchased after the school day, as long as they met fat, sugar and sodium limits. Sports drinks would survive for after-school sports.
Many schools have been moving in this direction for years, replacing fried foods with greens.
Every school that participates in the federal lunch program is now required to have a wellness policy.
Last year, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation - created by former President Clinton and the American Heart Association - made it easier for schools to work with beverage distributors to replace soda with healthier drinks.
Dr. Susan Rubin of Chappaqua, who has been on a longtime mission to improve the overall quality of school food, believes that Spitzer's plan tinkers with school offerings instead of addressing the real issue: the need to replace packaged food with fresh fruits and vegetables.
Rubin is director of A Better Way Holistic Health, a health counseling practice in Mount Kisco, and founded Better School Food, a regional group working toward her goals. She and a friend, Amy Kalafa, have produced a documentary called "Two Angry Moms" about their frustrating efforts to replace processed school food (even the low-fat, low-salt kind) with fresh food.
"This bill is a step, but not big enough; we need behavior change," Rubin said. "We just did 20 years of low-fat and fat-free foods and where did it get us? We have to go back to real food, not processed, packaged stuff. I don't need the fat content of an apple or carrot. I just need to get my kids to eat them."
Rubin said the film would be released in the fall and would feature how the Katonah-Lewisboro school district changed its approach to nutrition.
Carol Bumbolow, the school nurse at Walter Panas High School in Cortlandt, said Spitzer's bill sounded like an important piece of a larger solution to the problem of childhood obesity. Her school is working with Hudson Valley Hospital Center's Wellness Club to bring a group of about 20 students together for exercise and to learn about good eating, from calorie intake to portion size.
"A lot of districts like ours have been pulling out the soda machines and junk food," she said. "But I don't know that there is one solution. We need more younger child education, more parental education. We need more physical education, although physical education teachers have come so far, doing wellness training. More healthful foods are very expensive and the people more inclined to need healthful foods can least afford it, so that's something to consider.
"To remove the temptations of the junky stuff is one thing, a start," she said.
Spitzer's plan would require that students in eighth grade and under be given 30 minutes of recess on days when they don't have gym class. It would also prohibit schools from taking away recess as discipline.
What of the classic school bake sale? Or the classroom birthday party centered on cupcakes?
They would survive.
Spitzer's bill would not apply to snacks and drinks sold as part of fundraising activities or served as part of classroom celebrations. Still, the bill encourages schools to suggest ideas for healthy fundraisers and celebrations.

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