Sunday, July 11, 2010

Potpourri: School Food News Roundup

By Ed Bruske
aka The Slow Cook

The Center for Science in the Public Interest has announced that it intends to sue McDonald's over its practice of selling "Happy Meals" with toy as a means of marketing to children. In a statement, the CSPI explained the basis for its law suit:

"McDonald's practices are predatory and wrong. They are also illegal, because marketing to kids because marketing to kids under eight is (1) inherently deceptive, because young kids are not developmentally advanced enough to understand the persuasive intent of marketing; and (2) unfair to parents, because marketing to children undermines parental authority and interferes with their ability to raise healthy children."

Meanwhile, the federal government appears to be drawing up strict new standards for marketing junk food to kids, but they seem to be held up and nobody is exactly sure why. The one agency that has yet to sign off on the new regs reportedly is the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Speculation has it that food industry lobbyists are all over the USDA trying to influence the outcome of the government regulation efforts.

A recent study reports that kids appear to be seeing fewer ads for sweets and sodas than they used to, but are being exposed to more advertising for junk food. Researchers say the findings indicate the junk food industry is trying to brand its products in the minds of children at a younger age.


The first study to look at the long-term impact of the federal school meals program on health and educational achievement has turned up mixed results. Published in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, the study finds that the subsidized meal program leads to significant gains in education, but makes less of difference in health levels from childhood to adulthood.

A senior vice-president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation calls on Congress to approve quickly its re-authorization of the Child Nutrition Act, which funds the school meals program, and especially a provisions that would give the USDA authority to remove junk foods from schools.

A House version of the bill containing the provision is scheduled for a committee vote this week.


A new study finds that Americans are still getting fatter all over the country. Thirty-eight states now have obesity rates greater than 25 percent, compared to less than 20 years ago when no state in the country registered an obesity rate greater than 20 percent.

Particularly alarming: parents don't recognize when their own children are having weight problems.

But family habits are important in the battle of the waistline. A study in Greece finds that kids who have regular meals with their families and eat more vegetables are less likely to be overweight.


The beverage industry has managed to beat back local efforts to enact special soda taxes to help curb obesity in New York and in the District of Columbia. But now the USDA says research shows that soda taxes could really work.

The USDA calculates that taxes that would raise the cost of sodas by 20 percent would have the effect of taking 3.8 pounds off the average adult and 4.5 pounds off the average child.


Finally, first lady and White House gardener-in-chief Michelle Obama recently visited a school in Silver Spring, MD, just outside the Beltway, where, it turns out, kids are prohibited from having their own food gardens.

Seems the schools superintendent in Montgomery County has an inordinate fear of rodents being attracted to garden edibles and worries that nobody will be around during peak growing season in the summer to take care of gardens.

Parents in the county have now rounded up a coalition of gardeners, naturalists and parent groups to try and overturn the ban. They released a statement quoting the University of Maryland extension service agent who runs the state's Master Gardener programs, saying "vegetables bring a multitude of benefits to school students."

Michelle Obama, it looks like kids in the suburbs need you even more than inner-city kids do.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Ed for bringing all this info into one spot. It is interesting about the School Sup. in Maryland. Wonder if the schools could be come more like community centers in the Summer months because of the gardens. Some of them are probably open to feed some of the children meals anyway and some may have Summer child care programs on site as well. What a wonderful way to enrich those programs, if properly supervised.
    I'm all for a soft drink tax. I know many are not, but we tax cigarettes and HFCS soft drinks are causing health problems. I stopped drinking soft drinks 2 months ago and have lost several lbs without extra exercise.