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The Washington Times reports that Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, has introduced legislation that “would require the Department of Agriculture to update school nutrition standards to extend to vending machines and school stores.”

The bill is supported by the committee’s ranking Republican, Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar. "I think we need national standards for what's occurring in the hallways of the nation's schools," he said.

The Times writes: “A report by Congress' investigative arm, the Government Accountability Office, found that 83 percent of elementary schools and 99 percent of high schools sell unhealthy foods such as candy and soft drinks inside and outside the cafeteria. Unhealthy foods are linked to a rising obesity rate among children that has doubled over the past two decades and an upswing in the number of type two diabetes cases in adolescents.”

While there have been some movement in the private sector in this area – such as an agreement between former President Bill Clinton's Alliance for a Healthier Generation and the American Beverage Association to create voluntary calorie and portion standards – the legislation, if passed by the US Congress and signed by President Bush, would impose stricter and more wide-ranging regulations.

One problem for schools forced to eliminate such vending machines would be a loss of revenue – many districts depend on vending machine sales as a valuable and ample source of money to support various programs. Sen. Lugar said that the revenue issue would have to be considered in any national solution.
KC's View:
Lugar is right – any solution that addresses the nutritional issue also must address the revenue issue. In any event, it makes sense to reconsider any system that has the educational system dependent on the sale of junk food for funding.

Speaking from a parental point of view, we believe strongly that major changes to be made in many school districts to deal with the fact that they sell slop in their cafeterias. It is bad for our kids’ bodies and minds, and it teaches them the absolute wrong lesson about what their relationship with food should be.