Nutrition report pleases Looney

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 29, 2006

Alabama is doing an above-average job improving nutrition in its public schools. That’s the word from a year-end School Food Report Card issued last week by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).

In the report, the state received a letter grade of B+, along with Nevada, Arkansas, New Mexico and California. Only Kentucky, with a grade of A-, received a higher score.

The Butler County Schools System is pleased with its grade, but working for an &uot;A&uot; in the future, Mike Looney, schools superintendent, said.

The local system eliminated deep-fried foods from its lunchroom menus last year, causing a few &uot;fried chicken withdrawals&uot; among some students, Looney said.

&uot;However, the kids made the adjustment. It’s all part of our effort to reduce the obesity problem in our schools.&uot;

Looney said two nutrition policy committee meetings had been held. The first was primarily with educators and the second, featured parental input.

&uot;We believe we are making progress in putting together our system’s wellness policy for our students. This is a state and a national effort to offer better food choices, and to still take care of students’ needs for ‘munchies’ while they are on campus.&uot;

For the 50 states and the District of Columbia, CSPI evaluated the policies for foods and beverages that are sold in schools through vending machines, school stores, fundraisers and a la carte foods – foods sold in the cafeterias alongside the federally subsidized school lunch program. CSPI looked at nutrition standards of foods and drinks, and the grade levels, hours, and locations on campus to which the states’ policies apply.

A failing grade was given to 23 states in the report.

&uot;Although some local school districts have school foods policies that are fare better than state standards, far too many states allow way too much junk food in schools,&uot; CSPI Nutrition Policy Director, Margo Wootan, said.

&uot;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. States should continue to enact stronger nutrition policies, but since the school lunch program is, after all, a federal program, Congress should take action to ensure that all school foods are healthy.&uot;

Bipartisan legislation introduced earlier this year would require U.S. Department of Agriculture to bring its nutrition standards for food sold out of vending machines, school stores, and a la carte in line with current nutrition science. The USDA would also be required to apply these standards to all foods sold on campus throughout the school day.

&uot;Kids love their junk food. But we are going to do our best to make sure they eat healthily while they are on our campuses,&uot; Looney said.