Food Ban Sought for Schools
by Anne Ryman, The Arizona Republic, August 24, 2003
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The Arizona State Board of Education may ask school districts to
voluntarily ban unhealthful food in an effort to combat
The board will discuss a proposal Monday that would prohibit
schools from selling soda, gum and certain candies at school and
Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne said he
favors the voluntary changes.
"I'm a health nut," Horne said. "I don't think the kids should
be given high fat or high sugar or refined carbohydrates in the
food they get in school."
Horne said the board will discuss the changes Monday and may
vote as early as Sept. 23.
States such as California and Colorado have restricted snack
sales in schools.
The possible change could mean a lot less money for school
Arizona school districts make millions of dollars every year
selling junk food to boost their bottom lines. Kids in almost
every district can buy treats to go with their lunches, ranging
from chocolate-chip cookies to potato chips and ice cream to
french fries. Many schools sell junk food in vending machines as
fund-raisers. Large school districts like Mesa and Scottsdale
ring up more than $2 million in snack sales each year.
Food-service managers have said snack sales are necessary
because most school food-service operations are self-supporting
and snack sales help keep them in the black.
A 2001 report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture warns that
snacks compete with lunch and may contribute to unhealthful
The movement toward healthier food comes at a time when there is
rising concern about children's eating habits and an epidemic of
childhood obesity. Only 2 percent of school-age children get the
recommended servings from the five food groups each day,
according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And
13 percent of children ages 6 to 11 are overweight, double the
rate 20 years ago, according to a 2001 U.S. surgeon general's
"I would support offering healthy alternatives," said parent
Denise Selvey of Phoenix, who has three children ages 12, 14 and
Selvey said any policy should be voluntary because of the
possible financial impact on schools.
To ease the financial burden, the state Department of
Education's proposal is voluntary. Officials want to select
eight schools to pilot the healthier snacks for a year and study
Horne said he would like see parts of the nutrition proposal
made mandatory at some point.
"Elementary school vending machines should have orange juice and
milk," Horne said, "and not soda and candy."
A few Arizona school districts have chosen to limit food sales.
Tempe Elementary District won't sell snacks to students in
kindergarten through fifth grades. Paradise Valley Unified
School District, where Horne served as a School Board member
before becoming state superintendent, serves no foods that have
sugar or lard as the first ingredient.
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