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MA House Passes Ban on Junk Food in Schools

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Earlier today, I reported on my blog about a bill banning junk food in schools that passed the Massachusetts House. The ban, which only applies to so-called "competitive foods," covers "sugary" sodas, cookies, candy bars, and some chips and sports drinks. Instead, schools are encouraged to sell non-fried fruits and vegetables, whole grains, non-fat or low-fat dairy, non-carbonated water, and 100% juice. Competitive foods are the a la carte items sold outside of the National School Lunch Program. Nationally, the National School Lunch Program has federal nutrition standards, but competitive foods do not.

Since my original post about this bill, I've learned more - and the news is all good! First, the House vote was nearly unanimous and the Senate is expected to pass the bill as well. Second, in addition to getting the junk out of schools, the bill attempts to put produce from local farms into schools. Massachusetts has a vibrant agricultural sector and more food is sold directly from farmer to consumer in Massachusetts than nearly any other state (they are second to Rhode Island). An amendment to the bill calls for research on available local food as well as what foods the schools are interested in. According to The MetroWest Daily News:

A report would be done with the hope that the findings would increase cooperation among the Department of Agriculture, local farms and public schools. The bill seeks to "develop a mechanism and process by which schools interested in purchasing Massachusetts' farm products may notify farms."

According to Rep. Peter Koutoujian, the sponsor of the bill, 63 percent of Massachusetts public school students currently eat local food in their lunches. He said last year 205 Massachusetts school districts purchased local foods, compared to only 32 school districts in 2006.

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