Junk Food in Schools: Worst Offenders
Consumer Group Gives Kentucky High Marks, But Many States Get Failing Grades
June 20, 2006 -- Kentucky leads the nation in limiting kids' access to junk
food and high-calorie drinks at school, according to a report by a watchdog
The report gives Kentucky an A- for its rules reining in vending machine and
food-counter access at schools while also controlling access to high-fat and
high-sugar snacks across school campuses.
Meanwhile, 23 other states received a failing grade from the Center for
Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). The consumer advocacy group has been
lobbying Congress to crack down on sales of junk food from machines and à la
carte shops operating outside the school lunch programs.
"The sale of junk food and sugary drinks in schools is a national
problem that needs a national solution," CSPI says.
On the other side of the issue, Justin Wilson, a research analyst with the
Center for Consumer Freedom, called the report an attempt to establish
"paternalistic regulation" of schools.
"I think this is something that individual school districts are
recognizing they need to take responsibility for," said Wilson. His group
is funded by food manufacturers and other companies.
Failing states in the new report have no rules limiting junk food sales
outside of cafeterias or at times of day other than the lunch hour, according
to the CSPI.
Nearly half of all states limit soft drink sales outside of cafeterias,
though many of these policies don't apply to all grade levels or are not in
force at all times of day, the report warns. And most states lack policies on
foods other than soft drinks.
"The changes occurring at the state level, while positive, are
fragmented, incremental, and not happening quickly enough to reach all schools
in a timely way," the report says. "The nation has a patchwork of
policies," it states.
The federal government regulates the nutritional content of school lunches.
But chips, candy, and sodas have become nearly ubiquitous in school vending
machines and shops outside of the cafeteria; groups including CSPI have
complained that those sources give kids access to an unchecked supply of fat
Kentucky's Success Story
Kentucky schools have banned noncafeteria food sales campus-wide until after
the lunch period. The state limits the fat and sugar content of drinks sold in
elementary schools, and this fall is expected to set strict limits on calorie
and fat content of food sold in all schools.
"There's a move here now to really look at health and do preventative
kinds of things. We were seeing first hand that schools were selling food that
was just not healthy to kids," Lisa York Gross, a spokeswoman for the
Kentucky Department of Education, tells WebMD.
CSPI so far has been unsuccessful in its efforts to get Congress to set
nutritional standards for school snack counters and vending machines as a way
to help combat childhood obesity.
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, has spearheaded the effort in the Senate, even
though Iowa was one of the states receiving a failing grade in the CSPI
National Report Card
Following are CSPI's grades for the nation's school systems:
B+ Nevada, Arkansas, New Mexico, Alabama, California
B New Jersey, Arizona, Tennessee
B- Louisiana, West Virginia, Connecticut, Florida
C+ Hawaii, Texas
C Maine, Mississippi, District of Columbia
C- Colorado, South Carolina
D+ New York, Maryland
D Oklahoma, Virginia, North Carolina
D- Indiana, Illinois, Georgia
F Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota,
Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon,
Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin,