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The Detroit News reports that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has rejected a petition from a consumer group that it prohibit the sale of junk food in school cafeterias that distribute federally subsidized breakfasts and lunches.

"At this time, we do not intend to undertake the activities or measures recommended in your petition," wrote Stanley Garnett, director of the USDA's child-nutrition division.

USDA spokeswoman Jean Daniel told the News that the agency's hands “were tied because government regulations are narrowly written. The rules restrict school cafeterias from selling only a few items like hard candy, gum and flavored ices and give the USDA no authority over what is sold in vending machines, she said. Advocates for a ban on the sale of junk food said they had hoped the agency would give a looser interpretation to regulations.”

The petition was sought by Commercial Alert, an Oregon-based group, which wanted foods characterized as having “minimal nutritional value" banned from school cafeterias at a national level because of their contribution to the childhood obesity epidemic. By ignoring the request despite its own concerns about obesity levels in America, the consumer group said, USDA had “turned their back on American children, who are suffering from an epidemic of obesity.”

Commercial Alert vowed to continue its fight on a state-by-state, school district-by-school district basis. Some states and districts, of course, already are considering restrictions on the foods that can be sold and served in public school cafeterias.
KC's View:
As both a taxpayer and a parent, we happen to think it is entirely appropriate to not use public funds to buy products that are c=going to contribute to the general lack of health of children in this country.

That doesn’t mean taking draconian measures, and it doesn’t mean taking decision making out of the hands of students and parents. But it does mean using some common sense about what is served and sold to children in public institutions.