New rules proposed by the USDA and White House would restrict the marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages in schools during the school day, effectively removing the logos of sugary drinks such as Coca-Cola that may remain on vending machines that, for example, sell the likes of its Dasani bottled water.
“I think we can all agree that our classrooms should be healthy places where our kids aren’t bombarded with ads for junk food,” First Lady Michelle Obama said at a White House press event marking the fourth anniversary of her Let’s Move! Initiative, Politico’s Tarini Parti reports. “And these guidelines are part of a broader effort to inspire food companies to rethink how they market food to kids in general.”
“Last summer, the administration restricted the amount of calories, fat, sodium and sugar allowed in school snack foods, and required that they contain a certain portion of healthy ingredients starting next school year,” Annie Gasparro and Mike Esterl write in the Wall Street Journal. “Now, the administration is effectively trying to remove from schools any marketing of foods that don't meet those guidelines.”
According to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, The Hill’s Ben Goad and Justin Sink report, “the food industry spends roughly $149 million per year on marketing in schools, with 93% of that money promoting the marketing of beverages.”
“If you can’t sell it, you really ought not be able to market it,” Vilsack said.
“The American Beverage Association, which represents companies including Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Dr Pepper Snapple Group, said it supported the signage restrictions as ‘the logical next step’ in regulating food and beverages in schools,” the WSJ’s Gasparro and Esterl report.
In fact, it says it’s “leading the way” in “delivering innovation and proactive initiatives to our nation’s schools.”
“The healthier food rules have come under fire from conservatives who think the government shouldn't dictate what kids eat — and from some students who don't like the healthier foods,” points out the AP’s Mary Clare Jalonick. “Aware of the backlash, the USDA is allowing schools to make some of their own decisions on what constitutes marketing and asking for comments on some options. For example, the proposal asks for comments on initiatives like Pizza Hut's ‘Book It’ program, which coordinates with schools to reward kids with pizza for reading.”
And it’s not going to tell the PTSA how to run a bake sale either, Jalonick tells us.
In an expansion of a pilot program, the White House also announced yesterday that “schools in which 40% or more of students meet free- and reduced-cost lunch requirements” will be able to offer free meals to all their students, reports the Christian Science Monitor’s Amanda Paulson. About nine million children in more than 22,000 schools nationwide could be affected.
“This could have amazing implications,” Marlene Schwartz, deputy director for the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University, tells Paulson. “If a lot of districts do that, and start having lunch available without having to worry about money, it takes the stigma away.”
And, Schwartz points out, “The best way to learn about nutrition is to eat it.”
Meanwhile, most headlines are going with the good news that the obesity rate of children aged 2 to 5 dropped to 8.4% in the years 2011-2012 from 13.9%. But “that remarkable change occurred even as the obesity rates in adults, teens, and older children remained steady, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control in the Journal of the American Medical Association,” reports Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s Vanessa Wong in a story with five comparative charts.
“Obesity among the elderly, particularly women ages 60 and older, became more prevalent during the period,” one of them points out. Overall, 34.9% of adults have a Body Mass Index (BMI) higher than 30.
“Collectively, we will not make a big dent in obesity until we shift our cultural notion of a 'proper meal' to match the reality of our sedentary and technology-assisted lifestyles,” Mark Berman, a physician with One Medical Group, says in a story by Healthline’s Brian Krans. “This means shifting the focus of our diets away from highly refined grains and calorie-dense animal products, towards more nutrient-dense, plant-based foods.”
Hey, if the likes of Manischewitz and Terra Sweet Potato Chips can rate a gentlemarketer’s B- on Fooducate, other processed junk foods presumably can, too. And we’ll all be happy — in moderation, of course.