New Legislation to Promote Improved Nutritional Standards in Schools

April 17, 2007

On April 17, 2007, Assemblywoman Sandy Galef (90th District) and Senator Kenneth LaValle (125th District) announced the introduction of legislation to improve school nutrition, A.7086 and S.4169. This legislation changes the nutritional standards and portion sizes allowed in certain foods and beverages sold throughout the school day and at school functions, in vending machines, school stores, and school cafeterias.

This legislation codifies into law, the scientific based and age appropriate guidelines, that were agreed upon under the Alliance for Healthier Generation, between the William J. Clinton Foundation, the American Heart Association, Campbell Soup Company, Dannon, Kraft Foods, Mars, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Cadbury Schweppes, and the American Beverage Association. These guidelines modify portion sizes and standards for sodium, fat, and calories, to promote a healthy lifestyle and balanced diet that may help reduce the risk of preventable diseases related to obesity.

“Our schools are learning environments, in both academic and exemplary ways. It is our job to educate our students, support healthy eating habits that they will carry into adulthood, and provide more appropriate portion sizes of food and drink with higher nutritional value. It is imperative that we combat the growing obesity epidemic and provide a safe and healthy environment for our children, now,” stated Assemblywoman Galef.

“Obesity has become a serious health problem among young children throughout the country. It is important that we, as a society, recognize the problem and do everything in our power to encourage good nutritional eating habits,” said Senator Kenneth P. LaValle.

The New York State Department of Health reports on their website, “Obesity among children and adolescents has tripled over the past three decades…. 29.5% of high school students from New York City, and 24% of high school students from upstate New York are overweight or are obese.”

The American Cancer Society (ACS) details in their memorandum of support, a landmark study, which demonstrates “that obesity and overweight accounts for 14% of all cancer deaths in men and 20% in woman in the United States. The heaviest men and women were 52% and 62% more likely to die of cancer.” Micheal Bopp, ACS spokesperson, states, “This plan to strengthen nutrition standards in schools is one of the strongest in the nation and will provide more support for parents to raise healthier children. We applaud Senator LaValle’s and Assemblywoman Galef’s commitment to overhaul school nutrition in New York State and we call on lawmakers to pass this legislation in the 2007 session.”

“It is time for the adoption of science-based guidelines for schools that will provide kids with beverages and snacks that are lower in calories, reinforcing the nutrition lessons they learn at home and in the classroom about healthy, balanced diets,” stated Paul Hartman, Director of Advocacy for the American Heart Association (AHA), emphasizing the time for change. “We know that many school districts are headed in the same direction as these guidelines and the American Heart Association commends the many leaders and advocates who have fought for healthier school environments. These new guidelines will help expedite those changes and support parents and students in districts that have not yet been able to improve the nutrition of their schools.”

“Obesity-related illnesses cost the United States an estimated $117 billion and New York State more than $6 billion [per year]…. Poor diet and physical inactivity are the second leading causes of preventable death in the United States,” states the New York State Department of Health website.

Mark Doody, Superintendent of School for Hudson Falls Central Schools, comments, “The Hudson Falls Central School District is in support of the proposed legislation. We recognize the direct connection between the health of students and the impact on learning. We have adopted a coordinated approach to teaching health and wellness, and it is not enough to just teach healthy nutrition in the classroom. The entire school environment must support the practice of healthy lifestyles.”

“Our schools should offer healthy food choices to their student bodies. Many children receive 25% of their weekly nutrition in school and some as much as 50%. This fact represents an opportunity to assure that at least those meals are healthy,” declared Bram Jelin, MD, FAAP Chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics NYC Youth Advocacy Committee.

Fiona Grant, NYSPAC of the Junior League chair, stated “NYSPAC is pleased to support A.7086/S.4169 – legislation that, if enacted, will go a long way to improving the quality of meals and snacks that New York’s children and adolescents can access during school hours. Schools are a natural starting point for educating children about the benefits of a healthier diet and for helping children develop good eating habits at an early age.”

Senator LaValle states, “By restricting the availability of foods with no or minimal nutrition from our schools and replacing them with nourishing alternatives, we can help children become more aware of food choices that promote healthy lives.”

“It is essential that we provide our students with opportunities for healthier choices and safer environments. By providing healthy alternatives within schools, we are creating the ground work to combat the increasing rate of childhood obesity, while supplying our children with foods and beverages high in nutritional value and low in unnecessary calories, sodium, and fat,” said Assemblywoman Galef.

This legislation is supported by: 50 Assembly member sponsors and 6 Senate sponsors, The American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association, Community Heart Health Coalition of Ulster County, Cornell University Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County, Dental Hygienists’ Association of the State of the New York, Inc., Superintendent of Schools for Hudson Falls Central School, NEW York State Academy of Family Physicians, New York State Nurses Association, New York State Public Affairs Committee of the Junior League, New York Physical Therapy Association, New York State Parent Teacher Association, New York State School Administrators Association, New York State United Teachers, School Beat Healthy Heart Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy, and The YMCAs of New York State, Inc.