Be Our Voice Blog

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

Massachusetts Tackles School Nutrition

Posted by: Erin Ellingwood

You may not think of Massachusetts as a state that has an obesity problem, but according to the recent report, F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future, Massachusetts only ranks 18th on a list of the states with the lowest rates of childhood obesity. But the state legislator is taking action to change that with the help of Massachusetts’ school officials, farmers, and public school districts.

Yesterday, August 4th, Governor Deval Patrick signed into law the School Nutrition Bill, which takes an aim at establishing standards for all foods sold outside of regular school  meal programs. Most schools and communities in Massachusetts currently have no standards for the kinds of food available to nearly one million public school students in vending machines, a la carte, or in school stores.  And while we’d hope that kids are choosing salads or fruits for snacks, studies show that most students are buying donuts, candy, soda, and potato chips when given the opportunity.

The new School Nutrition Law will increase the selection of healthy foods available while banning the sale of deep fried foods, salty or sugary snacks, and high-calorie sodas in public schools. Schools are now required to make fresh drinking water available along with fruits and vegetables anywhere food is sold. This law also makes it easier for schools to purchase directly from Massachusetts farms—a boon to both farmers and students as, according to available data, kids eat more fruits and vegetables and try new options when they know the food is local.

In addition, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health is now responsible for developing nutritional standards for food or beverages sold in public schools by the start of the 2012-2013 academic school year. Many lawmakers and experts in Massachusetts hope that this law, as well as the standards resulting from its passage, will become a model to the rest of the country in ways to effectively fight childhood obesity.

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