Michelle Obama unveils food marketing limits for schoolsFirst lady Michelle Obama unveiled a proposal Tuesday that would ban marketing junk food and sodas in schools — an unusually aggressive position for the administration that could draw the ire of school districts, food companies and conservatives.
“We’ll be eliminating advertising for unhealthy foods and beverages in our schools because I think we can all agree that our classrooms should be healthy places where our kids aren’t bombarded with ads for junk food. And these guidelines are part of a broader effort to inspire food companies to rethink how they market food to kids in general,” said the first lady at a press event held in the East Room of the White House to further mark the fourth anniversary of the Let’s Move! initiative.
Schools would no longer be able to house vending machines that sport images of their flagship sodas, as part of the updated school wellness policy crafted by the Department of Agriculture. They would be prevented from having posters that promote unhealthy food and drinks or using cups in cafeterias that market high-calorie beverages, among other forms of promotion.(Also on POLITICO: Nutrition labels set for major overhaul)
The proposal would require marketing of all food and drinks to fall in line with the same healthier standards that are expected to be required of foods sold during the 2014-15 school year. Both sets of measures, which go beyond the new school lunch and breakfast requirements, stem from the 2010 Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.
Already, about 90 percent of school districts are meeting the updated school lunch standards, the first lady touted at the event, where she was introduced by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack along with a parent and a 14-year-old boy who briefly talked about the benefits of Let’s Move!.
“So far these changes have been a resounding success,” said Obama, who later read a rap song written by high school kids:
“If I want to help my brain come to fruition, I’m going to have to feed it quality nutrition. We love cookies, but they aren’t sufficient. We need veggies to make our bodies efficient. Roll my chicken in a wrap and don’t jam it in a nugget …”
Obama also announced an expansion of a program through which school districts that have 40 percent or more children eligible for free or reduced lunch will now be able to serve free breakfast and lunch to all of their students. By July 1, the expansion of universal free lunch and breakfast is expected to include 22,000 schools and serve as many as 9 million children.
(POLITICO Pro Special Report: Changing the way we eat)
The change follows the controversy surrounding an incident in which a Utah school’s cafeteria worker took lunches away from students with unpaid tabs.
The ban on junk food marketing comes as food companies reformulate their products to fit the new standards, and school districts prepare to implement another round of food-related regulations.
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