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Education Reporter

Districts Get Tough on Junk Food
Concerns about the nation's obesity epidemic has led school districts around the country to crack down on junk food in schools.

The Texas Department of Agriculture has issued policies to phase out fried foods, bring in fresh fruits and vegetables, restrict portions, reduce consumption of soda, candy and trans fats, and limit bake sales in 93% of the state's public and charter schools. (Houston Chronicle, 3-4-04)

After a public backlash, the department agreed to allow cupcakes and birthday cakes on special days, but not until after lunch. (Wall Street Journal, 9-3-04)

Chicago has banned carbonated drinks and vending machine junk food. (Associated Press, 4-21-04) Alabama has targeted soft drinks and snacks in vending machines. (Associated Press, 12-8-03) New Haven, CT has established at least one "junk food-free school." (Associated Press, 4-38-04)

A school in Duxbury, MA has gone so far as to prohibit all food sent from home for birthday celebrations. (Christian Science Monitor, 9-9-04)

California passed a law last year prohibiting the sale of sodas in schools statewide. Arkansas then banned student access to vending machines in elementary schools. Four other states — Colorado, Louisiana, Tennessee and Washington — have passed laws either restricting vending-machine sales or encouraging schools to investigate how they can supply more nutritious food.

In early October the U.S. Senate held a hearing on the proposed Childhood Obesity Reduction Act, which would set up a congressional council on childhood obesity and an independent foundation to award obesity-prevention grants. (Education Week, 10-13-04)

A report by Duke University researchers last March concluded that childhood obesity has risen to a point that it can be considered an epidemic: 15.6% of American children between 12 and 19 were obese in 2002, up from 6.1% in 1974, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (See also Education Reporter, Nov. 2003.)

But watch out for video games 
Even as schools are lowering the boom on non-nutritious food, on-line video games are targeting children with ads for cookies, candies, cereal, chips and soda. "Advergames" are appearing on dozens of sites from companies such as Kraft, Pepsico, McDonald's and Hershey Foods. The advergame sites are promoted on food packages, in TV commercials, and on Yahoo and other internet portals. Some games integrate brands into the play.

One example is the video basketball game Oreo Dunk 'N Slam at Nabiscoworld.com. Banners behind the virtual basket read "Oreo Lick 'em!!!" and "Oreo Dunk 'em!!!" (Wall Street Journal, 5-3-04)

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