Traverse City Record-Eagle

Body & Soul

March 1, 2014

Rules limit school food marketing

WASHINGTON (AP) — Even the scoreboards in high school gyms will have to advertise only healthy foods under new rules announced Tuesday by the Obama administration.

Promotion of sugary drinks and junk foods around campuses during the school day will be phased out under the rules, intended to ensure that such marketing is brought in line with health standards that already apply to school foods.

That means a scoreboard at a high school football or basketball game eventually wouldn’t be allowed to advertise Coca-Cola, for example, but it could advertise Diet Coke or Dasani water, which is also owned by Coca-Cola Co. Same with the front of a vending machine. Cups, posters and menu boards which promote foods that don’t meet the standards would also be phased out.

Ninety-three percent of such marketing in schools is related to beverages, and many soda companies already have started to transition their sales and advertising in schools from sugary sodas and sports drinks to their own healthier products. Still, companies are spending $149 million a year on marketing to kids in schools, according to USDA.

The proposed rules are part of first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative to combat child obesity, which is celebrating its fourth anniversary this week. Mrs. Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the new rules at a White House event.

“The idea here is simple — our classrooms should be healthy places where kids aren’t bombarded with ads for junk food,” the first lady said. “Because when parents are working hard to teach their kids healthy habits at home, their work shouldn’t be undone by unhealthy messages at school.”

The rules also would allow more children access to free lunches and ensure that schools have wellness policies in place.

The proposed rules come on the heels of USDA regulations that are now requiring foods in the school lunch line to be healthier.

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