Senate Passes Healthy Schools Legislation

Andrew J Lanza

May 22, 2007

The New York State Senate today passed legislation (S.5892) to establish nutrition guidelines for school districts to follow in order to provide students with healthy food choices. The Childhood Healthy Access to Meals Program (CHAMP) will provide children with more nutritious foods at school in an effort to reduce the growing crisis of childhood obesity and other children’s health issues.

"Statistics show that childhood obesity has become a public health crisis," Senator Andrew Lanza said. "CHAMPS is a great way to encourage children to make healthy eating a way of life in and out of school. We may be able to avoid future health care costs if we start addressing this problem now -- healthier children become healthier adults."

Statistics gathered at both state and federal levels indicate that childhood obesity has dramatically increased in recent years. Nationwide, the number of adolescents who are overweight has tripled since 1980 and the prevalence among younger children has more than doubled. Most alarming is that before entering school, 8 percent of four to five year old children are overweight, nearly double the percentage of 20 years ago.

The CHAMP initiative provides a mechanism to establish nutritional guidelines for school districts to reinforce sensible nutritious choices, reflecting what is being taught to students in the classroom. By offering food and beverages which meet certain nutritional standards, parents may be assured that students purchasing meals and snacks in school are choosing from healthy selections.

This legislation would allow school districts to purchase fresh produce and dairy products from local producers by increasing a spending cap allowed for such purchases. The bill also encourages the Department of Education to review both the nutritional and physical education curriculum to encourage additional physical activity and healthier habits for children inside and outside of school.

Specifically, the bill does the following:

* Directs the Commissioner of the State Education Department (SED) in collaboration with the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Agriculture and Markets and others, to develop statewide nutritional standards for elementary and secondary schools by December 31, 2007.

* Directs SED to periodically gather data related to the impact of nutritional standards on New York State's students.

* Requires SED to report to the Legislature and Governor on the data collected by December 15, 2010.

* Requires school districts to implement and abide by the SED nutritional standards beginning with the 2008-09 school year.

* Provides an additional 10 cents per meal for Federally reimbursable breakfasts and lunches (compared to the 2007-08 school year) beginning in the 2008-09 school year and thereafter.

* Allows for the continuation of existing vending, food and beverage service contracts but mandates that such contracts, as needed, be changed to reflect the requirement of the SED nutritional standards on the day following the expiration of the current contract term.

* Raises the spending cap on school districts' purchase of farm and dairy products.

* Directs the SED Commissioner to conduct an assessment of the physical education standards and instruction provided to students in grades kindergarten through twelve.

* Directs DOH and SED to assist school districts in coordinating with existing state administered school nutritional programs and programs operated by the Comprehensive Care Centers for Eating Disorders.

The bill was sent to the Assembly.