STAFF EDITORIAL FUN D I NG S C H O O L S . . . WITH JU N K FO O DS Y ou don’t have to be a parent to know that kids are getting fat. Over the last 20 years, obesity rates have doubled in children and tripled in teens. A major reason is that youngsters are eating more ...and we don’t mean Memo from MFJ Brussels sprouts and cabbage. Soft-drink consumption by children aged 6 to 18 increased 40 percent between 1989 and 1996. In one recent study, children who drank more soft drinks consumed more calories and were more likely to become obese. Sodas also promote cavities. And the more soft drinks and bogus juice drinks kids swallow, the less room they have for fat-free milk (its calcium can help prevent osteoporosis), 100 percent fruit juice (its vitamins and other nutrients may help prevent cancer), or just plain water. Amazingly, many school administrators —lured by the promise of easy money for their strapped budgets—are fueling the obesity epidemic by selling junk foods. Some 40 percent of elementary schools, 75 percent of middle schools, and almost all high schools have vending machines or a store, canteen, or snack bar. The most common foods sold there? You guessed it: soft drinks, juice “drinks” that have little or no juice, chips, cookies, snack cakes, and other hardly-good-for-you foods. Schools say they need to sell junk food to raise money for everything from books to sports equipment. But is it smart to fund one percent or so of our schools’ budgets at the expense of our children’s health? In the July/August issue (p. 12), a description of Cold Stone Creamery’s Berry Berry Berry Good sweet cream yogurt should have said that the dish has more saturated fat “than a scoop of any low-fat ice cream at any other chain.” The word “low-fat” was unintentionally omitted. The use of information from Nutrition Action Healthletter for commercial purposes is prohibited without written permission from CSPI. 2 CIRCULATION MANAGEMENT Dennis Bass Debra Brink Penny Brooks Damon Dorsey Louella Fennell Greg Hildebrandt Cecilia Saad Chris Schmidt Ken Waldmiller SCIENTIFIC ADVISORY BOARD Kelly D. Brownell, Ph.D. Yale University Greta R. Bunin, Ph.D. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Leonard A. Cohen, Ph.D. American Health Foundation Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., M.D. Cleveland Clinic Foundation Stephen Havas, M.D., M.P.H., M.S. School of Medicine, University of Maryland David Jacobs, M.D. Washington, DC Norman M. Kaplan, M.D. Southwestern Medical Center University of Texas, Dallas JoAnn E. Manson, M.D., Ph.D. Harvard Medical School Susan Taylor Mayne, Ph.D. Yale University Julie Mares-Perlman, Ph.D. University of Wisconsin J. Glenn Morris, Jr., M.D., M.P.H.&T.M. School of Medicine, University of Maryland Susan B. Roberts, Ph.D. USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Tufts University Frank Sacks, M.D. Harvard Medical School Ronald A. Simon, M.D. Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation Jeremiah Stamler, M.D. Northwestern University Medical School Regina G. Ziegler, Ph.D., M.P.H. National Cancer Institute Nutrition Action Healthletter (ISSN 0885-7792) is published 10 times a year (monthly except bi-monthly in Jan./Feb. and Jul./Aug.). Michael F. Jacobson, Ph.D. Executive Director Center for Science in the Public Interest Copies of the 70-page “School Foods Correction The contents of NAH are not intended to provide medical advice, which should be obtained from a qualified health professional. (The food industry pretends that the answer to kids’ excessive soft-drink consumption is more physical activity. Of course that’s important, but keep in mind that a 110-pound child would have to bike for 75 minutes to burn off just one 20-ounce Coke.) School officials who believe that kids will only buy lousy foods should consider what half a dozen middle and high schools in California, Maine, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania discovered. When they replaced soft drinks in their vending machines with water and 100 percent fruit juice, they earned about the same amount of money. (Juices have no fewer calories than soft drinks, but they’re more nutritious.) To improve children’s diets, Congress, the states, and school districts should adopt nutrition standards for foods sold outside of the official school breakfasts and lunches. To help parents get more healthful foods into their schools, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (which publishes Nutrition Action Healthletter) has developed a “School Foods Tool Kit.” It includes advice for working with school officials, as well as model policies, sample letters, and other materials. You can order a copy from the address below or print it out from www.cspinet.org/schoolfood. Michael Jacobson, Ph.D. Executive Editor Bonnie Liebman, M.S. Director of Nutrition Stephen B. Schmidt Editor-in-Chief Jayne Hurley, RD David Schardt Senior Nutritionists Heather Jones DeMino, RD Tamar Genger, RD Sarah Wade, B.Sc. Nutr. Project Coordinators Nicole Ferring Administrative Assistant Tool Kit” are available for $10 each (checks only, price includes shipping) from: CSPI—School Kit, Suite 300, 1875 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20009-5728. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is the non-profit healthadvocacy group that publishes Nutrition Action Healthletter. CSPI mounts educational programs and presses for changes in government and corporate policies. NUTRITION ACTION HEALTHLETTER ■ S E P T E M B E R 2 0 0 3 Design and production by The Page Group, www.pagegroup.com ©2003 by Center for Science in the Public Interest. POSTMASTER: Send changes to Nutrition Action Healthletter, 1875 Connecticut Ave., N.W., Suite 300, Washington, DC 20009-5728. 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