State schools will be taking a tough look at junk food
It's time to re-educate the palates of Utah schoolchildren, and limiting their access to junk food at school is a good place to start, a nutrition specialist said Friday. "We are a nation that has skewed thinking of what is healthy," Luann Shipley told a state Board of Education committee.
"There has to be a place that teaches how to eat correctly. School has to be that place."
After Utah received an "F" last summer from the Center for Science in the Public Interest for allowing junk food to be sold in school vending machines, educators began looking at ways to improve the state's grade while also addressing concern over childhood obesity.
That effort culminated in a list of recommendations the board's finance committee wants state Office of Education staff members to draft into rules for eventual implementation statewide. Staff members also will determine whether the board has the authority to mandate such rules.
"We need standards. We don't have any," board member Mark Cluff said Friday, referring to the fact that the state has no policy on which types of food can be sold in schools outside regular lunch time.
"We need to make a decision on what is best for the children."
The recommendations include banning foods of minimal nutritional value from vending machines in schools and setting limits on the calories, fats and carbohydrates in food allowed in the machines.
Nothing sold in vending machines could exceed 250 calories, have more than 20 grams of carbohydrates or be more than 20 percent fat.
The restrictions would apply to schools at all grade levels.
While committee members agreed changes are needed, some questioned whether schools will lose needed revenue or whether the recommendations go too far.
"I don't like the word ban," board member Greg Haws said, adding students' and parents' freedom to make choices about their health should be kept in mind. "If we are going to provide anything, let's provide a choice."
Two Utah districts - Salt Lake City and Wasatch - already have adopted wellness policies that phase out junk food in vending machines.
The matter will be revisited when the state school board meets again in September.
* Ban foods of minimal nutritional value, except for items with less than 10 calories per serving, campuswide during normal school hours (after-school activities exempted). Rule applies to all grade levels.
* Schools must sell foods meeting these requirements per container, package or amount served: no more than 250 calories; no more than 35 percent fat; no more than 10 percent of total calories from saturated fat; zero trans fat; no more than 20 grams of carbohydrates
* Nuts, seeds, real cheese, yogurt, fruit, 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice must not exceed 300 calories per package, container or amount served.
* Beverages (except water) may not be sold in containers larger than 12 ounces.
Source: Utah State Office of Education