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Guidelines No Substitute for Legislation to Get Junk Food Out of Schools

Statement of CSPI Nutrition Policy Director Margo Wootan

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The voluntary guidelines for snacks sold in school vending machines are perfectly reasonable. We applaud former President Clinton and the American Heart Association for their continued work on school foods, and we're glad some segments of the junk-food industry recognize their products' contribution to childhood obesity. But as benevolent as this agreement is, it’s schools and vending machine companies who decide what to stock in school vending machines – and they aren’t parties to this agreement.

These voluntary guidelines shouldn't be seen as a substitute for strong federal action to get junk food out of schools. Right now, bipartisan legislation is pending in both houses of Congress that would have the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) update its nutrition standards for foods sold out of vending machines, school stores, and other venues outside the nutritionally regulated school lunch program. That bill (S. 2592/H.R. 5167) has growing support on both sides of the aisle.

Getting junk food out of schools should be a national priority given that obesity rates in kids have tripled over the last two decades. But voluntary guidelines and photo ops, no matter how well intentioned, can't replace national standards backed by Congress and the USDA.

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Contact Jeff Cronin (jcronin[at]cspinet.org) or Ariana Stone (astone[at]cspinet.org).