Friday, July 23, 2010

Massachusetts passes bill to improve school nutrition

The Massachusetts House and Senate yesterday passed legislation to improve school nutrition.  The bill now goes to Governor Deval Patrick, who is likely to approve it.  Though some details of the rules are delegated to state agencies, the law will strengthen wellness planning and reduce or in some cases end the sale of sugary drinks and junk food in school.

The legislative history and the text of the bill (.pdf) are online.

The Boston Globe reports:
“There is no specific list of foods that would be banned, but most up-to-date recommendations would prohibit sugary drinks, such as soda, and typical ‘junk food’ such as regular chips and processed packaged snacks,’’ David Falcone, Senate President Therese Murray’s spokesman, said in an e-mail.

The measure, which the House passed in January and the Senate passed in March, now heads to the desk of Governor Deval Patrick for signing.

“The governor supports efforts that promote healthy eating for our children, and we look forward to reviewing the final language,’’ Patrick’s spokesman, Kyle Sullivan, said in an e-mail.
How long has the U.S. Food Policy been blogging this particular issue?  In October 2005 (!), we described the efforts of State Rep. Peter Koutoujian.
At the press event before today's hearing about junk food in Massachusetts schools at the State Capitol in Boston, State Rep. Peter Koutoujian challenged the notion that policy-makers should allow children to choose junk food. "Who's in charge here?," Koutoujian asked. "The adults or the children?"
The law will in no way restrict foods or beverages that parents can offer their children.  Instead, it will reduce the unseemly and widespread practice of other adults making money selling high-sugar beverages and high-salt snacks to children in school in the midst of an epidemic of childhood obesity and nutrition-related chronic disease.

Advocates for the new policy, such as the Massachusetts Public Health Association, have long cultivated patience as an essential virtue for their line of work.  It seems likely that the association's website will soon have a very happy news item.

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