The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: Phone: 202-332-9110

Bipartisan Agreement Likely Means USDA Will Set Nutrition Standards for Vending in Schools

Statement of CSPI Nutrition Policy Director Margo G. Wootan


In an otherwise contentious time in Washington, it's good to know
that Republicans and Democrats can come together for the sake of child
nutrition and health. The agreement that Chairman Blanche Lincoln and
Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss have forged, along with the support of industry leaders
and health groups, will allow the U.S. Department of Agriculture to
ensure that the federal investment in healthy school meals isn't
undermined by foods that harm kids' health.

USDA is currently updating the school meal standards;
now Congress is poised to allow USDA to take care of the rest of school
foods. The current national nutrition standards for foods sold out of
school vending machines and a la carte lines in cafeterias are 30 years
out of date and no longer make sense. They don't address key nutrition
problems like calories, fats, salt, and sugar.

USDA needs to update its nutrition standards for school
foods sold outside of meals, and apply those standards to the whole
campus, the whole school day. We're pleased that industry leaders like
Mars, Nestle, Coke, and Pepsi see the need for this as well.

There has been an absolute sea change when it comes to
parents' expectations for the foods that are available in schools. Many
cities, states, and companies have already begun to improve the
nutritional quality of foods they sell in school. However, two-thirds
of states still have weak or no school nutrition standards. When
Congress passes the child nutrition reauthorization bill, it will help get all junk food out of every school once and for all.

Since 1971, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has been a strong advocate for nutrition and health, food safety, alcohol policy, and sound science.