Guidelines address junk food ads in schools

by Jeff Gelski
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WASHINGTON – Proposed guidelines in local school wellness policies would ensure foods and beverages marketed to children in schools are consistent with the Smart Snacks in School standards, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. First Lady Michelle Obama and U.S.D.A Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the proposed guidelines Feb. 25.

“The idea here is simple – our classrooms should be healthy places where kids aren’t bombarded with ads for junk food because when parents are working hard to teach their kids healthy habits a home, their work shouldn’t be undone by unhealthy messages at school,” Ms. Obama said.

The Smart Snacks in School standards appeared in the Federal Register on June 28, 2013. The standards dealt with foods sold in schools other than food sold under lunch and breakfast programs. They set limits for food items in such areas as calories fat, sugar and sodium.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 mandated the U.S.D.A. set guidelines for what needed to be included in local school wellness policies.

“The food marketing and local wellness standards proposed today support better health for our kids and echo the good work already taking place at home and in schools across the country,” Mr. Vilsack said. “The new standards ensure that schools remain a safe place where kids can learn and where the school environment promotes healthy choices.”

To help schools implement the new policies, the U.S.D.A. has launched a new "School nutrition environment and wellness resources" web site. The site includes sample wellness policy language for school districts and a page of resources for food marketing practices on the school campus.

The American Beverage Association, Washington, on Feb. 25 said it applauded Ms. Obama’s efforts to strengthen school wellness policies, including aligning food and beverage signs in schools to reflect what is allowed under U.S.D.A. regulations.

“Mrs. Obama’s efforts to continue to strengthen school wellness make sense for the well-being of our school children,” said Susan Neely, president and chief executive officer of the association.
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