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Bill limiting junk foods in some schools approved

The Associated Press
Thursday August 30, 2001

One lawmaker stuffed spinach in his milk carton. Another recalled “barfaroni” with distaste. A third learned to love liver. 

Recalling their own school food experiences, Assembly Education Committee members Wednesday approved a bill that attempts to limit junk food served to elementary and middle school students. 

The bill by Sen. Martha Escutia, D-Commerce, originally would have established nutritional standards for all food served in elementary, middle and high schools. However, strong opposition led Escutia to change the bill so it only affects elementary and middle schools. 

Beginning in 2004, the bill would allow elementary schools to sell only full meals at breakfast and lunch, because backers say children are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables and less likely to drink sodas. 

It would also require snacks sold in elementary schools during breaks to meet nutritional standards, such as no more than 35 percent of calories from fat or 35 percent of weight in sugar. 

Carbonated beverages could not be sold at middle schools until after lunch. 

The bill would also increase state funds for meals for poor children from 13 cents to 26 cents, also beginning in 2004. High schools that chose to participate in the bill’s restrictions could also get the funding increase. 

Supporters said recent studies have shown that more than 30 percent of California youth are overweight. 

“It’s tough to teach kids when they’re not eating right,” said Bill Collins of the California Teachers Association. 

“Parents need to count on the state not to subject their elementary and middle school kids to junk foods,” said Michael Butler of the California State Parent Teachers Association. 

Schools, however, have had to rely on selling “a la carte” items beyond meals to raise money, said Gary Conover of the School Food Service Association. The state reimbursement has stayed the same since 1980 and should be 45 cents a meal, he said. 

And Bob Achermann of the California Nevada Soft Drink Association opposed the restrictions on soda sales in middle schools. 

“We don’t think it’s fair to demonize soft drinks in this debate,” he said. “Soft drinks can be part of a balanced diet.” 

Assemblyman Mark Wyland, R-Escondido, said he usually prefers letting local school districts make such decisions, but nutrition in schools is “out of control.” 

Schools serve pizza and hot dogs day after day, he said, recalling his own school days of being forced to eat spinach and hiding it in his milk cartons. 

Assemblyman Tom Calderon, D-Montebello, said districts need to serve nutritious yet appetizing meals that teachers will eat to set an example. 

“They’re still serving that ’barfaroni’ they served when I was in school,” he said. 

Assemblywoman Lynne Leach, R-Walnut Creek, opposed the bill, saying districts should be allowed to make the decisions themselves. 

Leach, who didn’t vote on the bill, recalled a talented cafeteria manager in her school days who turned her into “a liver lover in high school.” 

The bill was sent to the Appropriations Committee by an 11-0 vote. 

On the Net: 

Read the bill, SB19, at 

Read about school nutrition programs at