THE BLOG
01/16/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Peaceful Revolution: Current School Food Standards Don't Make Sense

You do your best to teach your children about eating well, but when they're at school, they're on their own. Is your voice in their head when they are deciding what to spend their lunch money on? The school may offer a hot meal with fruits and vegetables, but many also have vending machines full of junk-food favorites. All that junk makes it harder to feed our kids healthfully.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires that the lunches sold in the cafeteria meet specific nutrition guidelines, but those guidelines don't apply to foods sold outside of meals, such as through vending machines, a la carte lines, and school stores.

The standards for those foods haven't been updated since the 1970s and no longer make sense from the standpoint of science or kids' health. What the USDA considers "junk food" doesn't include many foods that most moms consider junk food. The current standard prohibits the sale of seltzer water, breath mints, and chewing gum, yet allows the sale of cookies, snack cakes, and candy bars.

The sale of junk food in schools undermines parents' and schools' efforts to teach children good nutrition. It is also fueling the obesity epidemic. Over the last two decades, rates of obesity have tripled in children and adolescents, and that increase has been linked to soda intake and the sale of junk food in schools.

A key way to get junk food and soda out of schools is for Congress to update the national nutrition standards for foods sold outside of meals. The Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act would do just that. The bill has the support of the National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity (NANA), a coalition that includes over 300 national, state, and local health and education organizations like the American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, and National PTA.

But members of Congress also need to hear from moms who support this legislation. Visit www.schoolfoods.org for more information and a link that makes it easy to write to Congress in support of getting junk food out of schools.

For more information contact us at nutritionpolicy@cspinet.org.

A Peaceful Revolution is a blog about innovative ideas to strengthen America's families through public policies, business practices, and cultural change. Done in collaboration with MomsRising.org, read a new post here each week.