In the last 30 years the United States Department of Health and Human Services says childhood obesity has doubled. The choices are endless and now the State of Illinois is looking to stop kids from popping a top. Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich wants to ban the sale of soda and other unhealthy foods in elementary and middle schools. But in the Rockford Public School District steps are already being taken to encourage kids to make a healthy choice.
Chris Saletta is the Director of Food Services in the district and she says, "The machines are on timers so pop is not available anytime during the lunch period only before or after school."
In a letter to the Illinois State Board of Education Blagojevich states that children who eat less junk food attend school more regularly, behave between and score better on tests. School administrators like Food Service Director Chris Saletta agree which is why over the years what's served in the cafeteria has changed. Saletta says, "We've gone to 1% milk as highest amount of fat milk. We have fruit available in a bowl for everyone in secondary schools so they can have a free piece of fruit."
Each year pop machines bring in thousands of dollars in revenue which is money that the Rockford Public School district uses to classroom supplies. What would this junk food ban do to PTO fundraisers like bake sales or candy sales or the money collected at sporting events? According to Blagojevich traditional fundraisers won't be interfered with. He goes on to say that junk food consumed by fans doesn't have a direct negative effect on a school's learning environment. Saletta states, "The fact that they can consume these foods at sporting events bake sales does send a mixed message."
The state board of education has the power to implement the ban. That could be in place by the start of the next school year. The same junk food ban was tried in March of 2004 and didn't pass. At that time the concern was the impact the ban would have on high schools.