Bills that would update Rhode Island’s school nutrition standards and ensure that only healthy foods and beverages are marketed to children on school property have been introduced in the House. These bills are top priorities for the American Heart Association and we are focused on getting them through the General Assembly and onto the Governor’s desk this year! You may recall that the Senate passed these bills last year and one of the bills was left on the House floor calendar. We were so close…now it’s time to finish the job!
House Bill 7657 – School Nutrition Updates:
When we give our children healthy foods at school, we’re teaching them good eating habits that will help them grow up healthy. In addition, studies have shown that eating better helps students perform better in school. H. 7657 would make technical updates to Rhode Island’s “competitive foods” statute which sets forth the nutritional criteria for foods and beverages sold in schools outside of the school meals program. This includes, but is not limited to, vending machines, school stores, a la carte foods sales and fundraisers held during the school day (food and beverages sold in “competition” with the schools meals program). These updates are needed to align Rhode Island’s standards with new federal requirements. Thanks to the leadership of the General Assembly, Rhode Island was one of the first states to adopt school nutrition standards and we have been – and continue to be – a national leader in this area.
House Bill 7487 – School Marketing Bill:
Research shows that the aggressive marketing and advertising of high-calorie, unhealthy foods to children are contributing to today’s childhood obesity epidemic. This bill would take the nutrition standards referenced above apply them to foods and beverages that are advertised and marketed on school property. The premise is very simple - if a food or beverage can’t be sold on school property because it doesn’t meet federal and state nutrition criteria, then it shouldn’t be advertised or marketed there. Permitting the advertising of foods and beverages at schools that may not be sold there interferes with school messages promoting good health and academic success. If children are taught through the school health and nutrition curriculum to limit their intake of these foods and at the same time the foods are promoted by school-based advertising and marketing, the lessons of school health and nutrition curricula are undermined. The marketing also undermines parents’ efforts to feed their children a healthy diet.