Trying to get junk food and soft drinks out of our schools should be a no-brainer. The Government is perfectly within its rights to decide the kind of food and drink that is sold in state schools, just as it decides what is taught. So, why won’t the Government act?
The only plausible reason seems to be that the sponsorship that schools and school-related activities get from Coke and other junk food companies might be threatened if the Government took a staunchly anti-junk food approach. It’d be a sad day if New Zealand had followed the United States in allowing private money to subvert the policy-making process.
So, it’s heartening to see that, despite the awesome influence junk food and drink companies wield in the United States, some states are taking a lead on this issue. As the Times in London reports:
Schools across Connecticut were banned yesterday from selling high-calorie fizzy drinks and junk food in the most radical attempt yet to fight childhood obesity in America.
Children under 11 will also be required to take an extra 20 minutes of exercise a day on top of their normal PE classes.
The rules, praised by parents and condemned by soft-drink companies, are the result of the state Senate passing America’s strictest anti-obesity bill, and mean that all sugary drinks, chocolate and crisps will be banned from all school sites…
Seventeen other states have passed legislation aimed at tackling childhood obesity, but none has gone so far as to impose an outright ban on sugared soft drinks, products of an industry that carries enormous political clout across America and employs an army of corporate lobbyists.
Under the Bill, which faced fierce opposition from some Republicans, junk food snacks and sugared soft drinks sold from vending machines, over the lunch counter or in school shops would be banned.
Schools will not be allowed to sell snacks deemed unhealthy by the state’s Education Department, in a list to be published in January.
These measures are exactly what Sue K was calling for when she launched a School Foods Campaign earlier this year. If only the Government would direct our Health and Education Ministries to get in behind what seem such obvious solutions to such important problems…