Senator Steve Saland (R,I,C Poughkeepsie), today announced passage of legislation, S.5892, to develop statewide nutrition standards for all food and beverages sold to students during the school day. The Children's Healthy Access to Meals Program (CHAMP) directs the Commissioner of Education to collaborate with the Department of Health and the Department of Agriculture and Markets to develop statewide nutritional standards for elementary and secondary schools by December 31, 2007. School districts would be required to abide by the standards beginning with the 2008-2009 school year.
Statistics have shown that, 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% of four to five year old children are overweight, nearly double the percentage of 20 years ago.
"Clearly, the issue of childhood obesity has reached dramatic proportions," said Senator Saland. "I believe most parents do their best to teach healthy eating habits at home. The availability of high fat and high sugar lunches and snacks in school, however, sends the wrong message to children -- that nutritious food is what they have to eat at home, but they can eat unhealthy food in school. Schools should not be part of the problem, but part of the solution," Saland continued.
Senator Saland’s bill provides a mechanism to establish nutritional guidelines for school districts, including additional funding, to provide students with healthy choices within the educational setting. By offering food and beverages which meet certain nutritional standards, students purchasing meals and snacks in school are choosing from healthy selections. Additionally, the bill encourages school districts to purchase fresh produce and dairy products locally by increasing a spending cap allowed for such purchases. The bill also directs the Commissioner of Education to conduct an assessment of physical education standards and instruction in grades kindergarten through twelve.
"Nutritious offerings in schools is a step in the right direction to counter what many have termed a childhood obesity epidemic. 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," Saland added.
The bill would take effect immediately to develop nutritional standards which would be put in place for the 2008-2009 school year.