Oregon and Washington can brag about being most improved when it comes to states with the healthiest school nutrition policies, based on results in a Washington-based consumer-advocacy group’s latest annual report card .
For the second year, the Center for Science in the Public Interest graded states on whether they restrict the sale and consumption of sugary sodas and items such as candy and chips purchased from vending machines, school stores, or along with the regular school lunch.
Oregon moved from an F in the group’s 2006 report to an A-minus this year, joining only Kentucky with that grade, the highest achieved this year. Washington state moved from an F to a B-minus.
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In both Oregon and Washington, the legislature took action to restrict the portion sizes and the amount of sugars and fats available in food sold outside the federal lunch and breakfast programs. Oregon’s policy, for example, outlines everything from portion size to fat content and calorie counts for snacks sold to students on school property.
“We’re really focusing on dealing with the whole school environment,” said Joyce M. Dougherty, the director of child-nutrition programs for the Oregon education department.
Federal support is available on restricting the types of food sold outside the cafeteria. An amendment to the 2007 farm bill, pending in the U.S. Senate, would update the Department of Agriculture’s standards on those food items.
But states still have their work cut out for them, if the center’s report is any indication. Thirty-four states received a C, D, or F, either because their policies were not restrictive enough by the advocacy group’s standards, or because no statewide policy was in place at all, according to the report.
“Over the last 10 years, states have been strengthening their school nutrition policies,” said Margo G. Wootan, the center’s director of nutrition policy, in a statement. “But, overall, the changes, while positive, are fragmented, incremental, and not happening quickly enough to reach all children in a timely way.”