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Can Bill to Ban Junk Foodin Schools Survive Congress?

Posted Sep 13 2008 4:33pm

Who slapped some sense into Congress? That’s what I was wondering as I read in The New York Times that a bipartisan group introduced a bill that would ban junk food from public school premises.

The bill would require all food sold from campus vending machines, school stores, and snack bars to meet guidelines to be determined by the Institute of Medicine. Even products sold for fund-raising would have to meet the guidelines, which would be based on whether the item promoted obesity or chronic illness.

“Members of Congress are hearing from their constituents and recognizing this has become a national problem,” Iowa Democrat Sen. Tom Harkin tells the Times. The senator has sought such a law since 1994.

There are other signs that Americans are beginning to recognize something is wrong with the food supply. The rate at which women are becoming obese seems to have slowed, reports The Washington Post.

While woman aren’t losing weight, they have held steady from 1999 to 2004, according to a Centers for Disease Control study. It’s the first time weight gain has slowed among any portion of society.

But the good news is tempered by the reality that two-thirds of women are overweight, while children, adolescents and men continue to gain. Just look at these numbers:

In 2004:

  • 71 percent of men were overweight
  • 31 percent of men were obese
  • 62 percent of women were overweight
  • 33 percent of women were obese
  • 18 percent of boys 2-19 were obese
  • 16 percent of girls 2-19 were obese

Actually, obesity tables are only half the story when it comes to our health. That’s because obesity rates do not take into account normal and underweight Americans who suffer from poor nutrition, which is much more difficult to gauge.

Equally worrisome is what industry lobbyists will do to the school nutrition bill. “My fear is that the food industry, with the soft drink industry taking the lead, will work its hardest to weaken or kill this act,” Dr. Kelly Brownell, director of the Yale Center for Eating and Weight Disorders, tells the Times.

Brownell is right; that’s how legislation is made in America today. By the time this bill is signed by the President, it will probably ban all fruit and vegetables from school grounds and only allow donuts to be sold. Our only hope is parents scream loudly enough that legislators are afraid to muck around with this legislation.

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