SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) today adopted rules to officially ban junk food and soda in Illinois elementary and middle schools. In November, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich asked the nine board members to ban junk food and soda in Illinois elementary and middle schools. Research shows that healthier students have higher attendance rates, better behavior, and superior test scores.
“Good nutrition helps children attend school more regularly, behave better when they’re in school, and score better on tests,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “But despite the obvious reasons to eat healthy, for children, the temptation to eat junk food can just be too great. Today, the State Board approved rules to reduce this temptation for kids to replace nutritious meals at school with things like candy, soda, pizza and chips.”
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. Elementary school students in Arizona, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, and West Virginia already cannot get junk food in schools until at least after lunch. And 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.
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. Today’s action changes the rules to prohibit junk food during the entire school day in elementary and middle schools. The new rules will begin to take affect in the 2006-2007 school year.
In addition to prohibiting junk food throughout the school day, the new rules will also change the definition of junk food to focus on what’s most important – the food’s nutritional content.
“We have answered Governor Blagojevich’s call to ban junk food in elementary and middle schools,” said Board Chairman Jesse Ruiz. “The State Board is defining junk food in a way that makes sense and ensures the health of children. These rules will help students have a healthier diet and perform better in school.”
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 and 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.
The notice of the adopted rules will be submitted to the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules to initiate JCAR’S review. When the process is complete, the adopted rules will be filed with the Secretary of State and implemented during the 2006-2007 school year.