Guidelines limit junk food marketing at schools

02/26/2014 10:21:00 AM
Tom Karst

Junk food advertising in schools will be limited by a new regulation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The proposed guidelines make sure that schools participating in the national school lunch program only allow marketing of foods to kids that are consistent with the recently-released Smart Snacks in School standards, according to a news release from the USDA. The proposal, which has a 60-day comment period that ends in late April, also would require that schools make their wellness policies available for public review.

First lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the school wellness standards on Feb. 25. School wellness policies have been required for schools participating in the lunch program since 2006, but the proposed regulation adds language on appropriate marketing messages.

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

Vilsack said the new local wellness standards support better health for kids.

The National Harbor, Md.-based School Nutrition Association, representing 55,000 school nutrition professionals, said in a statement that the proposed rule appears to be a positive step.

“Supporting nutrition education and physical fitness while limiting marketing of unhealthy foods will help reinforce positive messages in and out of the cafeteria, Leah Schmidt, president of the association, said in the statement. “School nutrition professionals have been working hard to offer more fruits, vegetables and whole grains with school meals and to make those healthy choices more appealing to students.”

Tracy Fox, president of Food, Nutrition & Policy Consultants LLC, attended the White House event announcing the proposed guidelines and said they will be a good complement to the USDA rule on food sold in schools, known as the Smart Snacks regulation.

“In its simplest terms, schools won’t be able to market foods that don’t comply with the new Smart Snacks (rules),” she said.

For example, Coke couldn’t be sold in vending machines, but Coca-Cola’s lower-calorie options could be in the machines.

“It is aligning the marketing environment to what is now going required to be sold beginning next fall,” she said.


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Oksana Demianczuk, MBA, RD    
Cleveland, Ohio  |  February, 27, 2014 at 10:36 AM

All of these rules & regulations are great but unfortunately all have failed to recognize its true implications in practice. It is one thing to mandate regulations of a set department and then make all types of exceptions for the schools, athletics, parent groups, etc. This defeats the original purpose. Also, the new regulations are so stringent that students hungry and wanting additional foods off the menu will be denied due to the calorie restrictions placed on per item sold.

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