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Sunday, April 17, 2016

Making it easier for school kids to get healthy food

Senate passes Sosnowski bill that streamlines the definition of healthy foods that are sold in schools
The Rhode Island Senate today passed legislation sponsored by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, New Shoreham, South Kingstown) that defines the types of healthy foods that can be sold in Rhode Island schools.

The bill (2016-S 2757) would modify the types of healthy foods and beverages that could be sold to students in schools during the school day by referencing the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. The act would also repeal the current definitions of healthier beverages and snacks.

“This bill brings state law more in line with federal regulations,” said Senator Sosnowski, chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Agriculture Committee. 

“We first passed this law banning junk food in schools back in 2006. Now we’re fine-tuning it to standardize the definitions of healthy food, bringing them in line with federal guidelines.”

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 is a federal law that gives the United States Department of Agriculture the authority to set the nutritional standards for food sold in schools during the day, including vending machines.

Under the legislation, career and technical schools with culinary arts or food service programs would be permitted to request an exemption that would allow the sale of non-compliant snacks and beverages to students in school if such food was prepared by culinary students as part of their curriculum.

Senator Sosnowski sponsored the initial legislation in 2006 that required the phase-out of unhealthy drinks and snacks from all public schools in Rhode Island.

A study by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a dramatic increase in the number of obese children in the United States. The study found that more than 10 percent of preschool children between the ages of 2 and 5 are overweight, up from 7 percent in 1994. 

Among children and teens ages 6 to 19, 15 percent (almost 9 million) are overweight, triple the figure that was reported in 1980. 

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention's School Health Policies and Programs Study (SHPPS) 2000 survey concluded that 43 percent of elementary schools, 89.4 percent of middle/junior high and 98.2 percent of high schools had either a vending machine or a school store, canteen, or snack bar where students could buy soda and snack foods.

The bill, which passed the Senate 33 to 4, now heads to the House of Representatives, where similar legislation (2016-H 7657) has been introduced by Rep. Thomas A. Palangio (D-Dist. 3, Providence).