New Jersey bans junk food in schools

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SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - In early June, New Jersey became the first state to ban soda and junk foods in schools, but many states are following its lead.

Acting Governor Richard J. Codey announced that, by Sept. 1, 2007, New Jersey school districts will be required to adopt a comprehensive statewide policy that will ban soda and junk foods, and teach better eating habits.

"Schools are where children spend most of their time," said Codey. "Instead of encouraging bad eating habits and bad health with the easy accessibility of candy and soda, schools must be a place where we teach good nutrition and lay the foundation for good eating habits."

The timeline is set by the state Agriculture Department's amended Nutrition Rule, which includes the Model School Nutrition Policy. The policy will be phased in, giving school districts time to adjust.

By Sept. 1, 2006, districts will have to adopt a school nutrition policy. By Sept. 1, 2007, districts will have to match their policies to the Model School Nutrition Policy.

Once adopted statewide, the Model School Nutrition Policy will apply to all vending machines, cafeterias, a la carte lines, snack bars, school stores, fundraisers and the reimbursable After School Snack Program.

Pat Johnson, service director for South Orange Middle School in New Jersey, already has incorporated many of the regulations of the policy.

"People told us that participation in our school lunch program would decrease, but it actually has gone up," Johnson said. "If you offer the healthy foods, the kids will eat them."

Connecticut is considering a junk food ban as well. Legislation prohibiting the sale of sodas, candy bars, and other junk foods in schools passed the Connecticut House of Representatives and is headed back to the state Senate, where it has passed once before in a slightly different form.

The bill also would ensure that Connecticut students in grades K through five receive at least 20 minutes of recess per day, in addition to existing physical education classes.