Nutrition Experts Urge
Schools To Ban Junk Food
By Eliza Bussey
WASHINGTON (Reuters Health) - Accusing US schools of ''putting profit over nutrition,'' five leading medical associations and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a challenge to schools Wednesday, calling for a ban on junk food in school cafeterias and vending machines. Instead, schools are urged to teach a life lesson by promoting healthy foods and physical activity.
The challenge is a joint effort by government and health experts to curb the ``epidemic 4.7 million youths, ages 6 to 17, who are overweight or obese.''
``The way the schools are set up today, many children don't even have the time to make healthy food choices, if they are available at all,'' said Shirley R. Watkins, Under Secretary at the USDA, Food, Nutrition Consumer Services. ``We have to set the example across the board, we cannot just teach good nutrition in the classroom, while providing unhealthy, high-fat, high-sugar food on school grounds,'' Watkins said.
According to the USDA, school children ``are flunking healthy eating.'' Only 2% of youth meet all the recommendations of the Food Guide Pyramid, while 16% do not meet any recommendations. Less than 15% of school children eat the recommended 2 to 4 servings of fruit while less than 20% eat enough vegetables.
``Reversing the trend is critical because nutrition profoundly affects a child's ability to learn, develop and stay healthy,'' said Jane White, president of the American Dietetic Association.
American Academy of Family Physicians president, Dr. Bruce Bagley, called for ``food nutrition to be a priority in every school.''
At a press conference Wednesday, the organizations announced ``Prescription for Change: Ten Keys to Promote Healthy Eating in School,'' and recommended that students, parents, educators and community leaders become involved in assessing the school's eating environment.
The organizations call for behavior-focused nutrition education to be integrated into the curriculum from pre-K through grade 12, called on schools to provide meals meeting USDA nutrition standards, and insist that outside food vendors provide food that comes from ``the five major food groups.''
The medical organizations endorsing healthy nutrition include The American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Dietetic Association, the National Hispanic Medical Association, and the National Medical Association.

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