First lady Michelle Obama has proposed cutting junk food advertising at schools for sugary drinks and snacks in places like vending machines and sports scoreboards.
Obama and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack made the announcement as part of the first lady’s Let’s Move initiative to fight childhood obesity and after the USDA released guidelines for offering healthier options for food and drinks in the nation’s public schools.
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“The idea here is simple — our classrooms should be healthy places where kids aren’t bombarded with ads for junk food,” the first lady said at the White House, according to The Associated Press
. “Because when parents are working hard to teach their kids healthy habits at home, their work shouldn’t be undone by unhealthy messages at school.”
Under the guidelines proposed Tuesday, scoreboards at public schools will eventually be allowed to advertise only healthy foods and diet drinks or water products. The rules don’t call for the immediate removal of a scoreboard ads for sugary drinks, just that the next time it’s replaced it has to advertise a healthier option.
Rules set to go into effect next school year will make other foods around school healthier as well, including in vending machines and separate "a la carte" lines in the lunch room. Calorie, fat, sugar, and sodium limits will have to be met on almost every food and beverage sold during the school day at 100,000 schools. Concessions sold at after-school sports games would be exempt.
Susan Neely, president and CEO of the American Beverage Association, released a statement Tuesday supporting the new guidelines.
“Mrs. Obama’s efforts to continue to strengthen school wellness make sense for the well-being of our schoolchildren,” Neely said.
In preparation for some negative feedback from the guidelines, USDA officials are asking for comments from states and individual schools as to what they consider acceptable marketing of school-related events involving food such as bake sales and off-site fundraisers at restaurants. One such example the USDA cites is Pizza Hut’s “Book It” program that rewards children with free pizza for reading. However, advertising of fast food in school hallways wouldn’t be permitted.
The new guidelines proposed Tuesday also would expand the number of high-poverty schools that can offer free breakfast and lunch to their students.
Up until now, most of the first lady’s Let’s Move campaign has focused on working with the private sector in promoting healthy food choices and physical activity.
A video posted Monday on the Let’s Move website features Obama and actor Will Ferrell
hosting a mock focus group, asking children about their opinions on eating healthy and being active.
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