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|NUMBER 176||THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS||SEPTEMBER 2000|
Junk Food Ads Subvert School Lunch Act|
The School Lunch Act of 1946 was enacted by Congress and signed by President Harry Truman "to safeguard the health and well-being of the nation's children." In F.Y. '99, public school districts received $7.4 billion in taxpayer funds to carry out this unchanged mandate. Concerned parents and pro-family leaders, however, point out that propaganda touting the consumption of junk food has become commonplace in the nation's schools.
Obligation Inc. President Jim Metrock explains that in the 12,000 schools showing Channel One, a captive audience of about eight million children watch "a parade of ads for junk food and soda pop," including Snickers, Twix, M&Ms, Pepsi, Hostess Cakes, Milky Way, Doritos, Mountain Dew, Nestle's Crunch, Skittles and more.
Last year, the trade publication Advertising Age reported that during an 18-month period, "the number of exclusive soda contracts in school districts increased nationwide by 300%, to 150." Channel One's Teen Fact Book 2000 states that soda is the "top beverage product" sold in schools, and that the top food products are potato chips, tortilla chips and cookies.
The result of all this is an increase in childhood obesity which, according to Surgeon General David Satcher, often "dooms them to the difficult task of overcoming a tough illness." The Journal of the American Medical Association (10-27-99) reported "alarming increases in obesity among children and adolescents," and editorialized about the role of the "marketing of snack foods" in the epidemic.
This is precisely the situation the School Lunch Act sought to avoid. "It is for Congress to decide whether it will continue to lavish hundreds of millions of dollars in school lunch funds upon schools that are violating the very purpose of the program for money," says Jim Metrock. "They shouldn't be able to take federal money for school lunches, and then take money or products from corporations to subvert the program's purpose."