New York City Schools Banish Junk Food
New York City Cuts Back Fat and Sweets in School
Distributed by Parents Advocating School
Accountability, San Francisco
Goodnough, New York Times, June 24, 2003
For more articles like this
Acknowledging that obesity is "epidemic" among New York City
schoolchildren, the city's Education Department is reducing the
fat content in the 800,000 meals it serves daily and is banning
candy, soda and other saccharine snacks from school vending
Gone may be lunchroom staples like beef ravioli, potato salad
and macaroni and cheese, which the department has tried but so
far failed to "reformulate" with healthier ingredients.
Favorites like chicken nuggets, cheese pizza and Jamaican beef
patties will remain on the menu, but in smaller portions or more
pristine (read: less finger-licking) form. While federal
guidelines require that only 30 percent of school-lunch calories
come from fat over a five-day period, New York City intends to
abide by the 30-percent rule every day.
In addition, foods defined as "minimally nutritious" by the
federal Department of Education - like chewing gum, flavored
ices and all candy - will be banned from the several thousand
vending machines in the city's 1,200 schools.
The new standards, announced at a City Council hearing today,
come out of a task force that Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein
appointed in February. Martin Oestreicher, the chief executive
of the Office of School Support Services, said the new standards
presented "aggressive yet balanced and realistic strategies for
achieving our goal to support the health and academic
preparedness of our school children."
School districts nationwide have been re-evaluating the meals
they serve and cutting back the amount of junk food available in
cafeterias. New York's efforts to upgrade its nutrition
standards will be closely watched: it is the nation's largest
school system, serving more meals daily than any other
government entity except the Department of Defense.
A recent study showed that according to Centers for Disease
Control guidelines, almost 20 percent of third graders and 21
percent of sixth graders in New York City are obese. In poor
neighborhoods like the South Bronx, East Harlem and Bushwick,
Brooklyn, almost 15 percent of the population has diabetes,
often caused by poor diet and lack of exercise.
Vending machines have become common, especially in high schools,
because they are a lucrative revenue source for cash-strapped
schools that use the money for sports and other extracurricular
programs. Education officials say that by providing an
alternative to traditional meals on trays, they also encourage
teen-agers to stay on school grounds during the lunch hour.
But many schools contract with vending companies on their own,
with no central oversight or nutritional requirements.
In New York, members of the City Council said today that the new
standards did not have enough teeth and that they would pass
legislation requiring even stricter guidelines. For example, the
Council bill would sharply limit the amount of sodium and
transfatty acids in school food.
Council members said that while a city law would make dietary
rules permanent, the new guidelines that Mr. Klein is putting in
effect through a chancellor's regulation could be scrapped by
"There is a history of decrees from the chancellor's office not
necessarily being followed throughout the system," Councilman
David Yassky, one of the bill's sponsors, said.
But Mr. Oestreicher and Dr. Roger Platt, a Health Department
official who oversees school health, told members of the
Council's education and health committees that the bill was
unnecessary. The new rules would be impossible to violate, they
said, because only one vending company will provide machines and
food for them. The vending machine foods will come from a single
list approved by Mr. Klein's office, they said.
For a complete archive of media coverage and background on
school food issues, and for a free downloadable guide to
banishing junk food from your child's school, go to
back to the top ~
back to Breaking News
~ back to