Archive for Friday, April 7, 2006

Bill aims to rid schools of junk food options

Kids’ nutrition on political plate

April 7, 2006


Mercades Beckum and Shaunta Thompson shake their heads when they consider school without access to junk food and soda.

"We'd have some problems with that," said Beckum, a Lawrence High School junior. "That's like saying you have no freedom to eat what you want to eat."

But that's the intent of federal legislation introduced Thursday calling for updated nutrition standards for all foods sold at schools - whether in the cafeteria, in vending machines or at school stores.

The legislation, backed by a bipartisan lineup including Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, could wipe out the sale of such foods as french fries, ice cream, cookies and pastries.

School lunches already have nutritional standards. But the proposal broaches new territory, applying to all foods available on school grounds throughout the school day, with the exception of food at school parties, classroom celebrations and fundraisers, according to Harkin's office.

It would be a change for the better, said Jennifer Reilly, a senior nutritionist with the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

Reilly said more attention also needs to be paid to school lunches, which look like fast food, though often they're prepared with healthier ingredients.

"Even if they know it's low-fat cheese, they're still just learning to eat pizza," Reilly said.

Sue Morgan, a Lawrence school board member, said she hadn't seen the particulars of the legislation, but she thought the matter could be better addressed at the local level.

"Talk about micromanaging," she said. "I don't understand the need to legislate this at the federal level."

U.S. Rep. Jim Ryun, R-Kan., said Thursday that he wasn't sure whether a federal mandate was the way to improve kids' eating habits.

"I certainly do support children having access to healthy food alternatives for lunch, but school issues are best addressed at the local level," he said.

In Lawrence public schools, vending machines aren't available to elementary students. The machines are on after school in junior high schools and all day in high schools. District policy calls for at least 50 percent of the drink offerings in machines to have higher nutritional value than soda.

Paula Murrish, the district's food services director, said the district is working on a school wellness policy that is expected to go to the school board this month. Details are being determined now.

Tanner Treichel squeezes the last drop of chocolate milk onto his tongue during lunch at Cordley School, 1837 Vt. Tanner, a first-grader, ate lunch with his classmates on Thursday in Lawrence. Trying to shrink the growing waistlines of children, some federal lawmakers want to expel soda, candy bars, chips and other junk food from the nation's schools.

Tanner Treichel squeezes the last drop of chocolate milk onto his tongue during lunch at Cordley School, 1837 Vt. Tanner, a first-grader, ate lunch with his classmates on Thursday in Lawrence. Trying to shrink the growing waistlines of children, some federal lawmakers want to expel soda, candy bars, chips and other junk food from the nation's schools.

Murrish said the issue of child health and obesity often targets schools, but the issue is broader than that and requires community participation.

"Schools alone cannot solve the nutritional problems of children," she said.

Myron Melton, principal at West Junior High School, said he favors making more healthy foods available to students and teaching them how to make good choices, rather than a situation that would remove unhealthy options altogether.

"The goal, I think, would be for kids and adults to learn how to manage that on their own," he said. "It's more than just a school skill. It's a life skill. Kids and adults alike learn how to manage their diet, manage their nutrition and learn how to make those decisions."

But LHS junior Shaunta Thompson, who'll grab a candy bar when she feels like it, said the legislation wouldn't go over well with students.

"It's the good stuff," she said of junk food. "Everybody would have problems."


benm024 12 years ago

First, they are probably right that this legislation may not be appropriate at the federal level.

That said, why are we putting junk food in kids laps. We are the fattest country in the world. It's disgusting. It's kind of hard to keep your kids on a proper diet when they go to school and toss out their celery sticks and sandwiches for candy bars and Pepsi.

How about feeding my kids a balanced nutritional meal. If I want them the fill their backpacks with garbage, I will supply that to them myself.

norm 12 years ago

It's high time this "progessive community" embrace the concept that schools need to lead by example. Removing the ability to purchase that crud gives a solid message to the students and the community that the Lawrence School System understands the problem.

Further, the fact the system depends on the money from those vending machines and money earned will most likely drop, shall illustrate to other sectors of the community that the way we fund the school system is errant.

Oh....and there's no need to raise taxes to make up the difference. Those guys are paid big dollars to think. Let them think of ways to re-distribute the current budget.

As well, the availability of the crud should not be in the teachers only areas. Juice machines and fruit machines are good places to start. Remove the candy machines; remove the corn syrup distribution points. Remove the chips.

While we're at it, can the dopes with WRAP stop suggesting that Paxil and such "help"? Is ADHD actually childhood borderline personality disorder? Probably.

Anyway, Ms. Shaunta Thompson, suggest you either bring your candy fix with you to school; do without; or go for a walk.

bankboy119 12 years ago

norm, we've been through this before about juice machines. The acidity in the juice is worse for your enamel than candy or pop if you cannot go and brush your teeth. Besides, this is America and is about personal choice, not what you think is best for them.

Richard Heckler 12 years ago

Part of a our education system should be preaching daily at the cafeteria good nutrition. Good nutrition is good for stress, brain cells and fighting cancer cells that are present in our bodies daily.

Teaching good diet at school is providing support for those parents who teach it at home. Good diet keeps immune systems strong which means less money spent on prescription drugs.

Do parents really want their children constantly exposed to junk food when not at home? If parents think junk food is part of growing up serve it at home or send it to school with their children. Stop spending my tax dollars on junk food. Stop allowing Coke and Pepsi to be the deciding factors in public schools I don't care how many scoreboards they buy. Their motive is profit not healthy living

Soda pop and most candy bars have little to no redeeming food value. That is not a good bang for our tax dollars. Water is far better than soda pop and "juice flavored" drinks. Sell granola bars with one(preferably honey) and not more than two sweeteners and oats as the first ingredient. Cut the crap out of public school menus and vending machines. Soda pop is not good for bones in the body. Serve pure carrot or fruit juices. Water, water and more water is the best.

bmwjhawk 12 years ago

"We'd have some problems with that," said Beckum, a Lawrence High School junior. "That's like saying you have no freedom to eat what you want to eat.

Freedom to eat what they want? Kids really think they have a lot of entitlements.

Richard Heckler 12 years ago

ADHD can be addressed with proper diet that generates the proper chemicals. Proper diet is far better than Ritalin.

jayhawks71 12 years ago

Guess that chocolate milk the boy is trying to drink will be gone as will the hormone-enhanced cow's milk and cheeses, pesticide-coated (they don't all wash off) fruits and vegetables, salt-laden lunch meats, unhealthy beef, fruit juices (calorie laden, often with little more than sugar and water), white breads and pastas, maybe even wheat-based products too so as not to upset the gluten sensitive!

Richard Heckler 12 years ago


Are you suggesting GO ORGANIC? I'm with you. What a great idea.

Sharon Nottingham 12 years ago

Organic is a great idea, but if you've ever shopped for organic at the grocery store, then you already know how expensive it is. All I know is my jr. high schooler's lunch menu choices are usually pizza, fried junk and french fries. How can that be considered nutritional? Did you watch a news magazine show (I think it may have been Dateline) several months ago? They showed that one school made it a point to have fresh fruits and vegetables prepared everyday for lunch. The prep time took awhile, but the cost averaged about the same as our standard fare served at our schools. They interviewed one food service worker at a school who said they wouldn't want to prepare fresh fruits and veggies everyday because of how long it took to prepare. It was much easier/quicker for them to use processed foods.

neopolss 12 years ago

Someone asked, "do you really want your children exposed to junk food all day long?"

It's a good bet to me to start teaching your kids about the temptations that life offers. Once away from home, there will be far more temptations than junk food. Sure, we can make the school a little safe haven, but it doesn't stop the kids from stopping by the quickie mart on the way home.

Take a lesson from the war on drugs. Banning the substance doesn't deter the behavior - education does.

dncinnanc 12 years ago

Just having the vending machines there shouldn't be a problem - - the contracts give the schools much needed money. The problem is that parents don't want to accept responsibility for teaching their kids poor eating habits. I can bet that the majority of kids who are chugging down sodas and eating tons of candy at school are able to do the same thing at home. The high school I went to had vending machines, soda dispensers, and even an ice cream vending machine. Does this mean that there was a mad rush to use these at lunch time? No. While there was a good chunk of kids whose normal lunch consisted of pizza, rice krispie treats, ice cream, and soda, there was another big chunk of us that would stick to salads, sandwiches, and milk, and only get soda or candy maybe once a week or so. It's Darwinism at its finest; let the kids who ignore the obesity trend that is ALL OVER the media weed themselves out.

Confrontation 12 years ago

"We'd have some problems with that," said Beckum, a Lawrence High School junior. "That's like saying you have no freedom to eat what you want to eat."

It's really funny that all these high school kids think they should have every freedom available to adults. I'd hate to take away their cigs, beer, and unhealthy foods. Why don't we just let these punks do whatever they want? Maybe they'll riot if we don't give them power over the twinkies.

purfektly_trubbled 12 years ago

take away the vending machines.. the ability to make our own choices. some may riot.. others will just go to the nearest quick shop before school. no matter what you do... people are going to be obese.. because they choose to be that way. it's no one elses fault but their own, and if you make it harder for them to get their junk... then they'll only become insane obese rioting high school kids on a mission for twinkies and soda.

james dick 12 years ago

All this hubris about freedom, choice, and revenue, among others, used to justify sacrificing the nutritional needs of our school children at the altar of consumerism and corporate greed is tiresome. WE ALL KNOW that junk food isn't really food at all (it's mostly sugar and fat, which the mass production of is so bad for us and the earth) and our kids should not be eating it except in very small quantities. Get the corporate and junk food industry out of our schools. State legislation would be great, but look at Kansas, for example. If it takes federal legislation so be it.

Fatty_McButterpants 12 years ago

anthro (and others): Children only eat one meal at school. The other two are eaten either at home or somewhere out in the community. The lunch foods that are available at schools are designed to be nutritious. Yes, there are vending machines available in high school. However, a child's nutritional habits should be firmly in place by the time they reach high school. In other words, little Bobby isn't going to go racing for the Snickers bars at every break if he hasn't been taught to do so in the home.

Last I knew (and somebody who knows for sure please correct me if I'm wrong) schools no longer had the finances to pay for physical education. Perhaps the answer lies therein. Bring back physical education! Get the little butterballs off their butts and get them exercising.

In addition, the parents need to provide nutritional food at home. This means tossing the Doritos, Ding-dong's, and trips to McDonald's because they don't have time (Subway is pretty quick, you know). They also need to teach their children correct food portion size. Encourage exercise instead of letting them veg on the computer surfing the net and instant messaging.

Jd Finch 12 years ago

The federal government is justified in legislating for the following reasons.

  1. Medicaid and Medicare are federal programs and a rising cost associated with these (absolutely essential) programs relates directly to America's increasing problems with obesity.

  2. Local and state legislation and enforcement will be piecemeal and in school districts beset with low-paid bureaucrats (think Louisiana, not Lawrence), the liklihood of sweeping menu changes seems slim. While enforcement may lag in places, at the very least the bill will provide stimulus for change.

  3. Local districts that receive monies from Coca-Cola or other caloric-bomb-drink manufacturers have vested interests in resistance to change for the betterment of their students. While these districts may look at these monies as essential for providing maintenance for buildings (most instances), the fact is these beverages are linked directly to obesity.

I don't buy the BS from the kid who is quoted in the article. Ingesting substances is not a right (ref. drugs, alcohol, tobacco, etc.).


geekin_topekan 12 years ago

and it's all touched by Mexican hands!!EEEWWWW!!!

purfektly_trubbled 12 years ago

i for one know that just because school lunches are "designed" to be nutritious... they can't possibly be so. our lunches are full of starch and carbs. potatoes, bread.. pretty much nothing besides these things. just because we aren't eating from the vending machiens doesn't necassariy mean that we are eating healthy school lunches. if they're so worried about having vending machines out, they might as well change the kind of foods they are serving the students.

wonderhorse 12 years ago

Potatoes and bread aren't "bad" food. It's the crap that is put on them.

monkeyspunk 12 years ago

Let's see. Schools operate inefficiently already. Need money to continue path of inefficiency, so place vending machines in schools to siphen money from children. Children consume sugar and fat, and then become difficult to control and unable to learn properly. Teachers complain that their jobs are too hard, and then demand more money.

Cycle continues... Schools are FAT, need money to stay FAT, make money by helping make kids FAT. FAT kids don't learn, Schools ask for more money and stay FAT.

EvaTrujillo 12 years ago

We do know that this generation Xtra-large won't live as long as their parents did, and will have trouble procreating. So if a program like this gets underway, it'll take a couple of generations to see the results.

I think Mr. McButterpants has made some valid points.

I remember going to the soccer fields when my offspring were little. Mini-van after mini-van would drive in and park. The sliding doors would open, child after child came out with a sack from a fast-food joint, and then they would eat. Meanwhile, my own would be eating a simple PBJ on wheat sometimes white with milk or water. (If I could've afforded organic, I would've.) Now my own are of normal size and weight while all those children now older, are starting to show signs of weight problems. The best part is that my offspring's taste- buds do not crave the junk. I do know they ate the junk at school so I never bought stuff like that for home.

So yes, add physical activity back in to school. But wait there's more - and this sounds radical, I would like for schools to do away with the cafeteria altogether. Instead, have vending machines with freshly prepared foods and be able to eat in class (when they're hungry). And during the course of the day, clean the rooms as their socializing time. No one needs to comment on this, too bizarre.

wonderhorse 12 years ago

"take away the vending machines.. the ability to make our own choices."

Yes, please. We should not have the ability to choose. Only someone else can make decisions for us.

meburr 12 years ago

Vending machines for 16-18 year olds are nothing! My elementary children can purchase ho-hos, choc brownies and candy bars at first grade level with or without a meal! Not only the nutritional shock but you can imagine the other shock when I saw my child's lunch bill was over $5 a day.

Godot 12 years ago

Here is an example of the Federal government attempting to block the influence of corporate power (General Foods, Frito Lay, McDonalds, Coca Cola, Pepsico, Hershey, etc.) and look at the complaints! I say ban them all in public schools. None of them sells a single product that is essential to a good diet.

CountryMom 12 years ago

I'm all for schools serving and providing nutrious foods for our children. With that said, I do not agree that they should restrict "candy" in fundraiser sales. Any PTA parent can tell you that those fundraisers are needed to provide everything from books to play equipment. If they want to mess with students and parents raising needed money to support our schools then they need to replace those dollars by what?...... lowering their salaries(?)
I don't think they know what they the implications are when it comes to fundraising.

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