Schools Target Junk Food
CNN, May 23, 2005
For more articles like this
on the verge of adopting the most far-reaching ban in the
country on soda and junk food in public schools, in an effort to
curb rising rates of childhood obesity.
Similar but weaker proposals have been introduced in at least 17
states this year, according to the National Conference of State
Legislatures. Policies are on the books in a few states, such as
Arkansas and California.
Advocates say Connecticut's ban would be the strongest because
it is so broad, applying to all grades and all school sites
where food is sold.
"Connecticut would be the first state to apply those standards
to high schools," said Margo Wootan, director of nutritional
policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest. "Most
of the recently passed policies are limited in that they only
apply to elementary and middle schools."
Last week, lawmakers in the House voted 88-55 after an
eight-hour debate to pass a law banning soda and junk food in
cafeterias, vending machines and school stores. It also requires
20 minutes of physical activity outside of gym for children in
kindergarten through fifth grade.
The bill heads to the Senate this week where leaders expect it
"By no stretch of the imagination does it solve all the
problems, but it's very important that we provide the right
models in our schools," said Senate President Pro Tem Donald E.
The topic was one of the most contested issues of the session.
The lengthy debate outlasted discussions about the death penalty
and a bill that allowed Connecticut to grant same-sex civil
unions. Lawmakers confessed their personal weight problems and
many lawmakers openly drank soda during the debate.
Soft drink companies lobbied fiercely against the bill, and many
high schools worried they would lose money if sodas disappeared.
In the end, weary legislators allowed a compromise that permits
high school sales of diet soda and sports drinks on a limited
"Diet sodas, while not particularly good for children, have zero
sugar content and therefore do not contribute to the weight
problem that we're trying to address," said Rep. Andrew
Fleischmann, D-West Hartford.
Opponents argue that the legislation crossed a line,
implementing a "Big Brother"-style mandate better handled by
local school districts. Rep. Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, said
the legislation wouldn't affect the obesity crisis when school
menus offer selections such as cheeseburgers, pizza, chicken
nuggets and nachos.
"How many of you will stand there and say, 'If you have your
share of sloppy joes and quesadillas, you're not going to put on
a few pounds?"' Cafero said.
Many state schools have already taken steps on their own. Last
year, New Haven Public Schools decided to make Nathan Hale
Elementary School junk-free, taking soda out of vending machines
and serving baked versions of french fries and tater tots. The
initiative expanded this year.
Some are unconvinced the initiative is the right way to approach
the obesity problem. Rep. Konstantinos Diamantis, D-Bristol,
said he weighed 240 pounds as an eighth-grader and couldn't play
sports because of weight limits. He lost the weight through
"There's a host of things that go into it," he said. "Banning a
particular food isn't going to teach a child a proper form of
back to the top ~
back to Breaking News
~ back to