TRENTON – The Senate 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 problem facing far too many school-aged children today,” said Senator Turner, D-Mercer. “The eating habits they learn while young will stay with them throughout their lives, so we must begin to expose them to healthy choices now, while they are still in school.”
The bill, S-1913, would prohibit the sale or distribution of food of “minimal nutritional value” to students in all public elementary and middle 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 30 minutes after the end of the school day.
“Between classes and extracurricular activities, students can spend up to 10 hours a day at school,” explained 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 contains 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 be more successful in school and have the experiences needed to become a well-rounded adult,” added Senator Turner.
The Senate passed the bill by a vote of 32-2. It now goes to Governor Codey for his signature.