TRENTON – The Senate Education Committee approved legislation today sponsored by Senator Shirley K. Turner that would enact new nutritional standards for food sold in public schools, limiting the availability of high-calorie beverages and foods high in sugar or fat to students during school hours.
“Obesity is a health problem reaching epidemic proportions in America,” said Senator Turner, D Mercer. “With two thirds of Americans being overweight or obese, we need to better promote healthy eating habits, and there is no better time to begin then while we are young.”
The bill, S-1218, would prohibit the sale or distribution of food of “minimal nutritional value” to students in all public elementary and secondary schools. Current federal regulations define “foods of minimal nutritional value” as having less than five percent of the Reference Daily Intake for each of eight specified nutrients per serving. The prohibition would end at the end of the school day.
“Between classes and extracurricular activities, older students can spend up to 10 hours a day at school,” said Senator Turner. “For some, this means eating all three meals at school, and it is critical that we make sure they don’t choose to fill up on junk food rather than having a well-balanced meal.”
The bill would also limit the types of foods that could be made available to students in vending machines before and during school hours. Vending machines would not be permitted to contain any food or beverage listing sugar in any form as the first ingredient or containing more than 8 total grams of fat, or 2 grams of saturated fat, per serving. Nuts and seeds would be exempt from this guideline.
“Developing smart eating habits isn’t just about combating obesity. It also provides children with a healthier lifestyle that will allow them to excel in their studies and have the experiences needed to become a well-rounded adult,” added Senator Turner.
A bill identical to S-1218 was passed by the Senate last year, but amendments on the bill approved by the Senate did not receive Assembly concurrence before the end of the 2004-2005 session. The Committee passed the bill by a vote of 5-0.