By Robert Kittle
Junk food would be eliminated from all South Carolina school vending machines and lunch rooms under a bill now in the state House of Representatives.
Rep. Bakari Sellers, D-Denmark, introduced the bill, saying it will help children learn early the importance of good nutrition, and that more healthful foods served in schools will cut down on preventable health problems later in life.
"I come from a district where many times the only time a child eats is when he gets to school, so being able to just tell him that meal is going to be healthy, it's no longer sloppy joes and french fries, can create better health outcomes throughout the future." he says.
The only beverages that could be sold in vending machines would be water, 100% fruit juices, and fat-free or low-fat milk. The bill also limits the daily total number of calories in school lunches.
There is opposition to the bill. Scott Price, general counsel for the South Carolina School Boards Association, says one of the biggest questions is about school fundraisers.
"We don't know how this will impact on what fundraisers might be going on at a particular school. We don't know how it's going to impact on the cost of schools and school districts in having to comply," he says.
The bill says it excludes fundraisers, but Sellers says he's not sure yet where he stands on how to handle that issue.
The bill is now in the House Education Committee.
Sellers has also started a new initiative to try to fight obesity. He calls it the "Healthy March" initiative, and its goal is to get people to start eating and drinking better and exercising during March.
It's a website, www.healthymarch.com, where people can exchange recipes and exercise plans. They can also hold each other accountable and, if they want to, admit it when they don't exercise or they eat or drink something they shouldn't have. Like a family "swear jar", participants can donate money for every time they mess up. The money will then be donated to the Harvest Hope Food Bank.
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