SPRINGFIELD – The Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) today approved rules that officially ban junk food and soda in Illinois elementary and middle schools. In November of last year, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich asked the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) 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.
“Ask any parent if they want their child drinking soda and eating candy at school – and they’ll say no. Good nutrition isn’t candy, soda, pizza and chips. This was a long hard fight. We met plenty of resistance along the way, but ultimately members of the administrative rules committee did the right thing by joining us and voting to take junk food out of our schools,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
ISBE 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. Arizona, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, and West Virginia already restrict elementary schools from selling junk food to students 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 of Education 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, approved by ISBE in March before being submitted to the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, were supported by the following members of JCAR: state Senators James F. Clayborne, Jr. (D-Belleville), M. Maggie Crotty (D-Oak Forest), and Ira I. Silverstein (D-Chicago) and state Representatives Brent Hassert (R-Romeoville), Thomas Holbrook (D-Belleville), Larry McKeon (D-Chicago), David E. Miller (D-Dolton), and Rosemary Mulligan (R-Des Plaines).
In addition to prohibiting junk food throughout the school day, the new rules, which take effect immediately, will also change the definition of junk food to focus on what’s most important – the food’s nutritional content.
“The health of our children and providing them every opportunity to succeed is of the utmost importance to us. We are pleased to see the new junk food rules moving forward, because we know that a healthy diet contributes to the learning readiness and wellbeing of the children of Illinois,” said ISBE Chair Jesse Ruiz.
“We are pleased to see that the rules have passed. The American Heart Association applauds Gov. Blagojevich’s leadership on this important issue. This is an excellent first step in improving school nutrition in Illinois. Although this is a substantial success for the Governor and his team, the real winners will be the kids who get to live longer and healthier lives,” said Mark Peysakhovich, Senior Director of Advocacy for the American Heart Association, Greater Midwest Affiliate.
A recent study found that 61 percent of Illinois residents and nearly one in four Illinois adults are obese, which is up from one year ago and part of an alarming national trend. Obesity climbed in 30 other states and only fell in one, Nevada. The results were compiled by the Non-profit Trust for America's Health, which used data from a federal telephone survey that asked adults their height and weight. Recently released government research also found that 60 percent of children overweight at any time during their preschool years are also overweight at age 12, which reinforces the importance of early prevention.
According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the average child drinks twice as much soda as milk. A study from Project Lean found that one quarter of everything adolescents eat is considered junk food. And, children nationwide are consuming on average 150 to 200 more calories per day than they did just ten years ago. In addition, 15 percent of all children ages 5 to 19 are overweight, triple that of 20 years ago.
While setting the stage for coronary heart disease, stroke and cancer, the growing epidemic is causing significant increases in serious medical conditions like Type II diabetes. 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.