Push for new rules on junk food in schools - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Push for new rules on junk food in schools

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School cafeteria menus are already changing and soon the attention grabbing snack marketing on campus could be changing, too.

"Our classrooms should be healthy places where our kids are not bombarded with ads for junk food," first lady Michelle Obama said.

The first lady and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack are proposing a ban on ads for junk food and sodas. It's part of the first lady's "Let's Move Initiative" to battle child obesity.

"If you can't sell it, you ought not be able to market it," Vilsack said.

But Vilsack admits it's big business. He says companies spend almost $150 million a year on marketing in schools. The changes would remove popular drink ads seen from school scoreboards and vending machines. The proposal follows USDA regulations limiting calories, fats and sugars in foods sold in schools.

"It's all marketing as to how you tell a child to eat. Our vending machines have 100 percent fruit juice, our chips are whole grain," said Angie Harris, the food program coordinator at Perry Street Preparatory Public Charter School in Washington, D.C.

Seconds after staff restocked this machine, students lined up. Perry Street is already ahead of the game. But not everyone is on board.

"I see these new regulations potentially driving up their costs when schools simply can't afford to spend money in places other than on kids' education," said Rep. Kristi Noem, R-South Dakota.

Noem has proposed her own legislation to scale back federal guidelines.

The White House is pushing forward, making the marketing limits part of its recipe for an overall healthier school day.

The administration is also expanding a pilot program that will allow school districts that serve primarily low-income children to serve healthy free lunches and breakfast to all children regardless of need. The White House estimates that could help as many as 9 million children gain access to healthy meals and boost school performance.

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