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Rules set to go into effect next school year will make other foods around school healthier

WASHINGTON (AP) - Even the scoreboards in high school gyms will have to advertise only healthy foods under new rules announced Tuesday by the Obama administration.

Promotion of sugary drinks and junk foods around campuses during the school day will be phased out under the rules, intended to ensure that such marketing is brought in line with health standards that already apply to school foods.

That means a scoreboard at a high school football or basketball game eventually wouldn't be allowed to advertise Coca-Cola, for example, but it could advertise Diet Coke or Dasani water, which is also owned by Coca-Cola Co. Same with the front of a vending machine. Cups, posters and menu boards which promote foods that don't meet the standards would also be phased out.

Ninety-three percent of such marketing in schools is related to beverages, and many soda companies already have started to transition their sales and advertising in schools from sugary sodas and sports drinks to their own healthier products. Still, companies are spending $149 million a year on marketing to kids in schools, according to USDA.

The proposed rules are part of first lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move initiative to combat child obesity, which is celebrating its fourth anniversary this week. Mrs. Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the new rules at a White House event.

"The idea here is simple - our classrooms should be healthy places where kids aren't bombarded with ads for junk food," the first lady said. "Because when parents are working hard to teach their kids healthy habits at home, their work shouldn't be undone by unhealthy messages at school."

The rules also would allow more children access to free lunches and ensure that schools have wellness policies in place.

The proposed rules come on the heels of USDA regulations that are now requiring foods in the school lunch line to be healthier.

Rules set to go into effect next school year will make other foods around school healthier as well, including in vending machines and separate "a la carte" lines in the lunch room. Calorie, fat, sugar and sodium limits will have to be met on almost every food and beverage sold during the school day at 100,000 schools. Concessions sold at afterschool sports games would be exempt.

The healthier food rules have come under fire from conservatives who think the government shouldn't dictate what kids eat - and from some students who don't like the healthier foods.

At the White House event, Mrs. Obama defended herself against critics, saying that "I didn't create this issue."

"This new approach to eating and activity is not just a fad, and it's not just a movement," she said. "Nowhere is this more clear than in our schools."

Aware of the backlash, the USDA is allowing schools to make some of their own decisions on what constitutes marketing and asking for comments on some options. For example, the proposal asks for comments on initiatives like Pizza Hut's "Book It" program, which coordinates with schools to reward kids with pizza for reading.

Rules for other school fundraisers, like bake sales and marketing for those events, would be left up to schools or states.

Off-campus fundraisers, like an event at a local fast-food outlet that benefits a school, still would be permitted. But posters advertising the fast food may not be allowed in school hallways. An email to parents - with or without the advertising - would have to suffice. The idea is to market to the parents, not the kids.

The rule also makes allowances for major infrastructure costs - that scoreboard advertising Coca-Cola, for example, wouldn't have to be immediately torn down. But the school would have to get one with a healthier message the next time it was replaced.

The beverage industry - led by Coca-Cola Co., Dr. Pepper Snapple Group and PepsiCo - is on board with the move. American Beverage Association President and CEO Susan Neely said in a statement that aligning signage with the healthier drinks that will be offered in schools is the "logical next step."

"Mrs. Obama's efforts to continue to strengthen school wellness make sense for the well-being of our schoolchildren," Neely said.

Although Mrs. Obama lobbied Congress to pass the school nutrition bill in 2010, most of her efforts in recent years have been focused on the private sector, building partnerships with food companies and retailers to sell healthier foods.

The child nutrition law also expanded feeding programs for hungry students. The rules being proposed Tuesday would increase that even further by allowing the highest-poverty schools to serve lunch and breakfast to all students for free. According to the USDA and the White House, that initiative would allow 9 million children in 22,000 schools to receive free lunches.

The USDA has already tested the program, which is designed to increase participation for students and reduce paperwork and applications for schools, in 11 states.

The Obama administration will also announce new guidelines for school wellness policies. Schools have been required to have general wellness policies that set their own general standards for foods, physical activity and other wellness activities since 2004. But the new rules would require parents and others in the school community to be involved in those decisions.

Join the discussion

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ogledude February 26 2014 at 1:59 PM

that stuff doesnt fill the kids up, they end up dreaming of hamburgers and candy bars the rest of the day rather than focusing on school. These dogooders aways GO TO EXTREMES

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rolltide1 February 26 2014 at 9:32 AM


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3 replies
normde February 26 2014 at 10:02 AM

Attagirl, Michelle. When I was in school in the '40s and '50s we had nothing but nutritious cafeteria style food supplied by professional dietitions and cooks. Every kid carried lunch money, and if you did not have it, no problem. In HS you could go outside and eat whatever you chose to.

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TOM February 26 2014 at 9:11 AM

What gives her the right to push her agenda on everyone else? Freedom of choice....NOT BIG BROTHER!

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alleghanyp February 26 2014 at 9:40 AM

so sad that we are not FREE to eat what we want.....the new standards do not fill these children up, I understand not wanting children to be over weight, but the standards and the food that is required, I bet no one at the White House is eating....

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Carolyn February 26 2014 at 9:34 AM

This woman was not elected to anything and has no business whatsoever dictating what people should eat or drink. No more than I. School lunches have become so disgusting under her imperial orders than many of them are just thrown away and children are hungry. When will the American people take back their country?

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3 replies
chefheidiooh February 26 2014 at 9:04 AM

How is that even a solution. Diet Coke is even worse than regular coke. Who even notices the advertisements on scoreboards. If you want to fix the nutrition problems in school how about changing the menu, and quality of food. School breakfast and lunch is over processed garbage.

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jsim6974 February 26 2014 at 9:00 AM

WOW! Americans are soft! Falling apart because of "Healthy Food Program"???? WTF

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Danny February 26 2014 at 9:09 AM

Michelle needs to stand in front of a mirror and look at her thunder thighs and big butt !

Flag Reply +6 rate up
1 reply
geocur3971 Danny February 26 2014 at 9:11 AM

And you need to watch your disrespectful, RACIST mouth.

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1 reply
ruardch geocur3971 February 26 2014 at 9:24 AM

What is racist even white people have big butts and thunder theighs

Flag +1 rate up
Erick February 26 2014 at 9:08 AM

Go polish your AARP card

Flag Reply +3 rate up
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