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No More Sweets

Some Ohio school districts could lose federal funding if they continue to disregard regulations that prohibit schools from selling sugary soft drinks and candy during breakfast and lunch times.

Recently, the state education department has fielded complaints about soft drinks and snacks such as candy and chewing gum being sold in school cafeterias, said Lorita Myles, the agency's director of child-nutrition services.

The Ohio education department and the U.S. Department of Agriculture bar schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program from selling such items in eating areas during mealtimes.

"It is a regulation that has been in force for more than 20 years," Ms. Myles said.

Hank Rubin, Ohio's associate superintendent for students, families, and communities, warned in a memo to districts last month that the education department could "withhold child-nutrition payments, suspend the program, and/or terminate the agreement to participate in the school breakfast and lunch programs" for schools in violation.

The state currently receives more than $200 million each year to reimburse districts that participate in the federal school lunch program, according to Ms. Myles.

"We are working to establish a connection between the importance of good nutrition and learning," he said.

The Center for Commercial-Free Public Schools, a national organization based in Oakland, Calif., that addresses the issue of commercialism in schools, has a similar goal. Of particular concern to the center are contracts schools reach with soft- drink companies to sell their products exclusively.

Andrew Hagelshaw, the center's executive director, said he believes that Ohio is "out front" in what he sees as a trend toward greater awareness of the negative health aspects of serving the sugary beverages in schools.

"Most states know the [federal] policy, but few enforce it," he said.

—Adrienne D. Coles

Vol. 20, Issue 12, Page 18

Published in Print: November 22, 2000, as State Journal

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