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Soft Drink Industry Kills Senate Junkfood Bill in Washington State

House Bill in Appropriations Committee

Despite rapidly-mounting public concern about poor child nutrition,
aggressive lobbying by soft drink and vending machine lobbyists
persuaded the Senate Education Committee to stop SB5436 from reaching
the Senate floor following a hearing Friday. The bill would merely
have required OSPI to research and draft a model policy that addresses
junkfood sales and marketing in schools, to guide school boards in
setting local policy. The compromise bill was the 17th draft crafted
by Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-Seattle).

The Citizens' Campaign for Commercial-Free Schools and the Children's
Alliance, statewide advocacy organizations, are spearheading the
effort to get junkfood out of public schools. Their coalition
includes over 65 organizations in Washington opposed to junkfood sales
and/or marketing in schools. The final draft of the Senate bill had
the support of the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction,
the Washington State Department of Health, the Washington State Dental
Service Foundation, the Washington State PTA and many others.

"We are seeing overwhelming support from the education, health, labor,
and food and agriculture sector for getting junkfood out of our
schools, and it's time for the state to step in". said Brita
Butler-Wall, Executive Director of the non-profit Citizens' Campaign
for Commercial-Free Schools. "In their desperate drive for dollars,
local school boards and school administrators have created a toxic
nutrition environment for children."

Gary Goldbaum MD, MPH, a physician representing Public Health --
Seattle & King County, provided testimony that, "Public schools must
provide an environment where kids can learn to eat healthy foods.
School boards must develop policies to improve the school environment.
The key is to offer competitive foods that are healthy, affordable,
and reflect what is being taught through nutrition education
curricula".

The Washington State School Directors' Association and the Washington
Association of School Principals voiced concerns about the specificity
of the bill but supported the idea of a model policy. Olympia School
Board member Russ Lehman, who supports the bill, says " We fail our
prime responsibility to our school children when we not only provide,
but in fact attempt to profit from, the exact foods that we teach them
are unhealthy."

The Washington Association of School Administrators joined industry
reps in opposing the bill. Currently, many Washington schools fund a
portion of their extracurricular activities through revenues from
selling sodas and other soft drinks to students. Schools in other
states such as California,

Montana and Pennsylvania have, however, reported equal or increased
revenues after recently switching to healthful snacks and beverages.

According to Public Disclosure Commission information, the Washington
State Soft Drink Association spent thousands of dollars contributing
to the political campaigns of many Washington legislators.

Rep. Eileen Cody's House bill HB1866 which is similar to SB5436 was
passed by the House Health Care Committee this week and has a hearing
in House Appropriations on March 6.

The Citizens' Campaign for Commercial-Free Schools can be reached at
www.scn.org/cccs.


 

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