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Let's Move! Food policy expert hails 'sensational' announcements on school meals, junk food marketing to kids

By Elaine WATSON , 25-Feb-2014
Last updated the 10-Mar-2014 at 15:29 GMT

Under new rules unveiled this morning and hailed by one food policy expert as "sensational", schools with 40% or more children eligible for free meals will be able to serve free breakfasts and free lunches to every student, regardless of income, while the government is also proposing to ban the marketing of foods and beverages that don't meet certain nutritional criteria in schools.

Writing in her food policy blog this morning (click here ) about the free meals, a policy that has been piloted in 11 states and will be rolled out across the country, Dr Marion Nestle, Paulette Goddard professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University, said: "This one is extraordinary... For this alone, Let’s Move! deserves enthusiastic congratulations."

The other key announcement was a proposed rule to ensure that foods and beverages marketed to children in schools are consistent with the recently-released Smart Snacks in School standards, which impose strict restrictions on foods that can be sold in vending machines stores and a la carte lunch lines.

"The idea here is simple—our classrooms should be healthy places where kids aren't bombarded with ads for junk food," said First Lady Michelle Obama. "Because when parents are working hard to teach their kids healthy habits at home, their work shouldn't be undone by unhealthy messages at school."

Dr Nestle said: "This is good news and a terrific step in the right direction, even though there are plenty of loopholes:

  • Scoreboards with Coke logos, for example, can be phased out over time.
  • After-school fundraisers and concessions at sports events are exempt.
  • Schools can opt out."

Center for Science in the Public Interest nutrition policy director Margo G. Wootan said: “Parents know from experience, and studies show, that food marketing affects kids’ food preferences, food choices, and health.” 

Click here for more details of the announcements.

Click here to read Dr Marion Nestle's reaction in full.

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