Oregon's school food policies received a grade of "F" in a nationwide evaluation by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
The Washington, D.C.-based organization failed the school system because Oregon has no statewide nutrition standards for foods sold outside the national school meals programs. While some school districts have policies addressing foods sold in schools, many districts do not. The state follows only U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations.
That means that in many schools, Oregon students are eating high-calorie, low-nutrient foods in large serving sizes instead of the nourishing foods they need, said Margo Wootan, M.D., director of nutrition policy for the center.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest is a nonprofit organization working to improve the public's health through its work on nutrition, food safety, and alcohol issues.
Given the rising rates of childhood obesity and the poor state of children's diets, statewide school policies are important in ensuring that the healthy choice is the easy choice for all of Oregon's students, Wootan said.
The Center for Science In the Public Interest evaluated school nutrition polices in each state. Evaluators focused on foods and beverages sold outside of the federal school meals programs such as vending machines, school stores, fund-raisers and a la carte lines.
Grades were based on the standards set by each state for beverages and food, the grade levels in each district that the standards apply to and the times and locations on campuses that the policies apply to. The center's school foods report card can be found online at www.cspinet.org/new/pdf/school_foods_report_card.pdf.
"With junk food tempting kids at nearly every other public place in America, schools should be one place where parents don't have to worry about what their kids are eating," Wootan said.
"The Oregon Legislature or Congress should take action to make all school foods healthy," she added.
In 2005, the Oregon Nutrition Policy Alliance proposed unsuccessful legislation that would have set statewide nutrition standards for foods and beverages sold outside the federal meal programs and removed soda and high-fat, high-sugar snacks from schools. Oregon Nutrition Policy Alliance is a network of health, nutrition, education and policy professionals who promote policies to increase healthy nutrition and physical activity among Oregonians.
In the 2007 legislative session, the alliance anticipates advocating for statewide nutrition standards that protect all of Oregon's school children.