Focus on childhood obesity
AUGUSTA – Maine is among the top 10 states for keeping unhealthy foods out of its schools, and has gained national attention as a result. According to the most report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of schools that don’t allow kids to buy soda or other unhealthy beverages and snacks and candy increased by about 10 percent from 2006 to 2008.
As a result of these improvements, a total of 68 percent of Maine secondary schools do not sell chocolate, other candy, baked goods or salty snacks high in fat, soda, or fruit drinks that are not 100% juice to students.
“We have seen the kind of impact the right policies and collaboration can have,” said Judi Sipowicz, director of Coordinated School Health Programs, of the Maine Department of Education. “We still have more work to do to improve school nutrition and reduce childhood obesity.”
“The school environment is a key setting for influencing children’s food choices and eating habits,” according to Howell Wechsler, director of CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health. “Further, by ensuring that only healthy food options are available, schools can model healthy eating behaviors, improve students’ diets, and help youth establish lifelong healthy eating habits.”
In 2005, Maine policy-makers gave school nutrition efforts a boost by strengthening the legislation known as Chapter 51. This rule restricts the sale of foods like candy and soda on school property and establishes criteria for all foods sold on school property around the clock. Local school boards can create policy exemptions for adult sales.
In 2007, Maine also passed legislation that expanded access to free school breakfast for eligible students, and limited all brand-specific food advertising on school property to those foods and beverages meeting the amended guidelines. Since 2008 all pre-packaged a la carte foods sold on school property must include calorie information.
Many schools, especially those with school health coordinators, are working to exceed state Department of Education Chapter 51 requirements by addressing the fat, sodium, and sugar content of all foods sold in schools. In addition, Maine schools are embracing innovative activities in the cafeteria, classroom and even school gardens to promote healthy eating and physical activity behaviors.
For more information, visit the Maine Department of Education