May 23, 2006
School Food Fight
School food has become a national obsession. And no place is the fixation more evident than in the Bay Area, where activists are determined to put an end to obesity and teach kids how to eat right.
They're filling school yards with edible gardens, applying for grants to put salad bars in cafeterias, teaching students and parents how to cook healthful meals and replacing cookies with strawberries at school dances.
All agree that schools need to clean up their nutritional act, but there is bitter dissent over how it should be done and how far it should go.
In recent years, California has passed some of the most stringent school food laws in the country. The state, concerned that it has the second highest rate of overweight children in the nation, passed legislation introduced by Sen. Martha Escutia, D-Whittier (Los Angeles County), that would heighten nutritional standards at schools.
The law, which goes into effect July 1, 2007 , says vending machine snacks sold on campus during school hours and a half hour before and after, must meet certain requirements -- no more than 35 percent of its calories can come from fat, no more than 10 percent can come from saturated fat, and no more than 35 percent of its weight can be sugar.
Entrees prepared in school cafeterias must have no more than four grams of fat per 100 calories with a 400 calorie cap.
But Marion Nestle, a nutrition professor, one of the food industry's loudest critics and author of "What to Eat,'' says the junk food manufacturers are probably already looking for ways to circumvent the requirements.
"I don't like this kind of criteria," she said, adding that although the new rules will rid schools of candy bars, they will also knock out most salad dressings. "It's a slippery slope, and there are always exceptions. Why not just get rid of highly processed foods and use the Marion Nestle method -- only serve foods with no more than five ingredients on the label."
Posted by Lisa at May 23, 2006 10:53 AM
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