Galef Fighting Junk Food in Our Schools

May 30, 2003

Assemblywoman Sandy Galef (90 A.D.) held a press conference today at the Walter Panas High School cafeteria in Cortlandt Manor to highlight her legislation dealing with the problem of junk food in our state’s schools and its effects on childhood obesity. The percentage of our nation’s children who are overweight has tripled since 1980 to reach 15 percent, with New York State’s rate of overweight children exceeding the national average.

In an effort to protect our state’s children from heart disease, Type II diabetes, sleep apnea, gallbladder disease, and other illnesses associated with obesity, Assemblywoman Galef has introduced a bill (A.6563-A) which calls for the ban of non-nutritious foods within school vending machines during school hours. Senator Mary Lou Rath has introduced the companion bill in the Senate.

“Our children deserve a fighting chance for a healthy lifestyle. By prohibiting the sale of non-nutritious food within our vending machines, we can help children make the right choices,” the Assemblywoman said.

Many experts in the nutrition and education fields supported the Assemblywoman’s legislation and participated in the press conference. Dr. Barry Shapiro, a physician who conducts Healthy Life 2000, a nutrition and exercise program for overweight children, and a participant in the press conference, stated, “One of the greatest dangers to our children is carbonated soda, with its completely empty sugar calories. For each additional serving (6 ounces) of sugar-sweetened soft drink consumed, the risk of obesity increases by a factor of 1.6. I am completely in support of Assemblywoman Galef’s proposal to limit our children’s access to dangerous sugar loads during school hours.”

Dr. Barnett Sturm, Superintendent of Lakeland School District and another participant in the press conference, said that Assemblywoman Galef’s legislation will not only help to decrease the risks of obesity and obesity-related illnesses for school children, but will also enable our children “to make healthy choices for the rest of their lives.”

Lakeland School District, host of the press conference, has joined Assemblywoman Galef in the efforts to improve nutrition among our children. The school district has its own nutrition committee and manages a profitable food service, both of which have aimed to improve the eating habits of students by offering healthier choices for meals and snacks during school hours.

Joanne Ricapito, Director of Food Services for Lakeland School District who joined the Assemblywoman in the discussion, stated, “Sandy Galef has an obvious passion to enhance the nutritional quality of foods served to children in schools, especially foods offered through vending machines. She has both inspired and challenged me to continue making changes, which will significantly improve our children’s paths to healthier lifestyles.”

In addition to the aforementioned participants, the Assemblywoman was joined by representatives from the Lakeland School Nutrition Committee as well as students from Lakeland School District.

Nutritious refreshments were provided.