SPRINGFIELD – As the Illinois State Board of Education began hearing public comment on a proposal to ban junk food and soda from Illinois schools, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today explained that banning junk food will remove the temptation for young children to replace nutritious meals with candy, soda, pizza, chips and gum. The Governor also cited research that shows healthier students have higher attendance rates, better behavior, and superior test scores.
Last month, the Governor asked the nine board members to consider new rules to ban junk food and soda in Illinois elementary and middle schools. During today’s meeting, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) approved a motion to put the amended junk food rules out for 45 days of public comment.
"Just last month, I signed landmark legislation that guarantees access to affordable, comprehensive health insurance for the children of working families. One of the major reasons the All Kids program is so important is that children who have health insurance get the health care they need to succeed in school. Removing junk food and soda from Illinois schools is one more way we can help our children stay healthy," said Gov. Blagojevich.
The State Board has the authority under the National School Lunch Program to prohibit elementary and middle schools throughout Illinois that participate in the program from selling junk food and soda during the school day. The sale of junk food to elementary school children is subject to similar restrictions in at least ten other states, which prohibit sales until after the lunch period at the earliest. Other states have gone even further. Hawaii bans junk food in all schools all day. Florida bans the sale of junk food in elementary schools all day, and in secondary schools until after lunch. The Governor’s proposal builds on the work done in these other states.
Existing State Board rules already prohibit the sale of junk food in elementary schools during breakfast and lunch, but if students snack too much between mealtimes, they may not have appetites for healthy foods at lunch. The proposed rules would change the rules to prohibit junk food during the entire school day in elementary and middle schools.
In addition to prohibiting junk food throughout the school day, the proposed rule will also change the definition of junk food to make it easier to understand. The new definition will move away from a focus on categories of food, like cookies or candy bars, and focus directly on what’s important – the food’s nutritional content.
"The State Board has answered Governor Blagojevich’s call to ban junk food in elementary and middle schools, and now the public will have an opportunity to voice their views and concerns during the public comment period," said Board Chairman Jesse Ruiz. "The State Board will work together with the public to address what is necessary in order to help keep junk food out of our schools."
The average child drinks twice as much soda as milk, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest. One quarter of everything adolescents eat is considered junk food according to a study from Project Lean. In addition, children nationwide are consuming an average 150 to 200 more calories per day than they did just ten years ago.
Nationally, 15 percent of children ages 5 to 19 are overweight, triple that of 20 years ago. The increased weight is causing increases in serious medical conditions like Type II diabetes and is setting the stage for coronary heart disease, stroke or cancer. A study in Arkansas showed that Type II diabetes – a condition once found almost exclusively in adults – is up 800 percent among children compared to the past decade.
"As the childhood obesity epidemic grows, we must recognize the fact that most school-age children spend more waking hours at school than they do at home. That is why addressing nutrition and physical education needs in Illinois’ schools is so important. The American Heart Association is grateful that Gov. Blagojevich and the Illinois State Board of Education are taking steps to improve the current situation and we look forward to working with the administration. For the first time in history, public health officials are seriously concerned that the current generation of school kids will have a life expectancy shorter than their parents. Nutrition and physical education compose our first line of defense in avoiding such a tragedy and we’re glad that the Governor and ISBE are doing something about it!" said Mark E. Peysakhovich, Senior Director of Advocacy, American Heart Association Greater Midwestern Affiliate, who also spoke before ISBE today.
The Governor is asking the Board to act quickly, so the new rules can begin in the 2006-2007 school year. In the early spring, the Board will have the opportunity to take its final action on the rule, which will be submitted to the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR).