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Nation/World

February 28, 2014

Cut out junk food ads in schools, feds say

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An email to parents — with or without the advertising — would have to suffice. The idea is to market to the parents, not the kids.

The rules also make allowances for major infrastructure costs — that scoreboard advertising Coca-Cola, for example, wouldn’t have to be immediately torn down. But the school would have to get one with a different message or product the next time it was replaced.

Schools that don’t want to comply could leave the National School Lunch Program, which allows schools to collect government reimbursements for free and low-cost lunches for needy students in exchange for following certain standards. Very few schools choose to give up those government dollars, though.

The beverage industry — led by Coca-Cola Co., Dr. Pepper Snapple Group and PepsiCo — is on board with the new rules. American Beverage Association President and CEO Susan Neely said in a statement that aligning signage with the more healthful drinks that will be offered in schools is the “logical next step.”

The public will have 60 days to comment on the proposed rules, which also would allow more children access to free lunches and ensure that schools have wellness policies in place.

The 2010 child nutrition law expanded food programs for hungry students. The rules being proposed Tuesday would increase that even further by allowing the highest-poverty schools to serve lunch and breakfast to all students for free, with the cost shared between the federal government and the schools. According to the Agriculture Department and the White House, that initiative would allow 9 million children in 22,000 schools to receive free lunches.

The department already has tested the program in 11 states.

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