On Thursday, August 5th, the Senate unanimously passed the Child Nutrition Act, the federal legislation that stipulates the policy and funding for school meals. New policies include additional meal training and strengthened nutrition and fitness standards. To fund all of this, the bill allocates $4.5 billion, including an additional 6 cents per meal—the first non-inflationary revenue increase since 1973. And this is a wonderful thing! Now everything that passes through those school doors will have to be approved by strict government guidelines. This makeover will reduce student exposure to junk food and high fat and sugary items. The 2010 Child Nutrition Act stipulates: “the Secretary shall establish science-based nutrition standards for…all foods sold outside the school meal program…at any time during the extended school day.”
Kids are big business. As Beverage Industry magazine once noted, “Influencing elementary school students is very important to soft-drink marketers because children are still establishing their tastes and habits… Entering the schools makes perfect sense.” To ensure a lifetime of brand loyalty, food marketing goes beyond the lunchroom, extending into giveaways, hallway and bus ads, and slightly-slanted educational materials (tax-deductible, of course).
The industry is so entrenched in our education system that schools across the nation now rely on junk food revenue to meet their bottom lines. As author Eric Schlosser said of one industry contract negotiator in his book, Fast Food Nation:
“In his three years following his groundbreaking contract for School District 11 in Colorado Springs, Dan DeRose negotiated agreements for seventeen universities and sixty public systems across the United States, everywhere from Greensville, North Carolina to Newark, New Jersey.”