Legislation that Improves Food Choices at Massachusetts Schools to Help Fight Childhood Obesity on Its way to the Governor Along with an Expansion of Nurses Anesthetists’ Prescription Writing Ability and a More Efficient Process of Becoming Organ and Tissue Donors
BOSTON – State Representative Jeffrey Sánchez led his colleagues in the Massachusetts State House in passing legislation that would ban the sale of unhealthy foods and drinks in Massachusetts public schools.
The bill institutes nutritional guidelines, to be developed by the Department of Public Health, for foods and beverages sold to students outside of the federal meal program, establishing standards for products sold in vending machines, school stores, and cafeteria a la carte lines.
“With childhood obesity rates skyrocketing, we must be more proactive about providing healthier choices for kids when it comes to food,” House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo said. “This bill promotes purchasing food from local farms which not only teaches our kids good eating habits but also stimulates business for local farmers in a time of need.”
“By improving the nutritional standards for foods and drinks sold in schools, the legislation approved today achieves real progress in the efforts to both improve student health and transform our schools from a place where the marketing of high calorie, nutrient poor foods exist to the best possible nutritional environment” said Representative Jeffrey Sánchez, House Chair of the Joint Committee on Public Health. “Implementing this school nutrition policy will help youth attain their full educational and health potential by providing them with the skills, social support and environmental reinforcement needed to make positive choices without negatively impacting school finances.”
Provisions of the bill include: preferential purchasing for products grown in Massachusetts, nutrition and wellness to be included in the annual report that school districts must supply to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, school wellness and advisory committees in all school districts to develop a district-wide wellness policy, Department of Agriculture to collect data to facilitate the process of local farms and public schools doing business together, and nutrition and exercise as subjects required for instruction in schools.
The American Heart Association has confirmed that childhood obesity is one of the most critical public health issues facing our nation today, threatening to reverse the last half century’s gains in reducing cardiovascular disease and related deaths. One-third of children aged two to five years are either at risk for being overweight or are already overweight. In Massachusetts, 29% of middle school students are overweight or obese. Studies show that these children are more likely than their peers to be absent from school, experience low self esteem and become obese adults.
Other achievements this week for the House Chairman of the Committee on Public Health include approval by both the House and Senate of bills expanding the ability of nurse anesthetists to deliver quality care to patients by expanding their prescriptive authority, and the establishment of a statewide organ and tissue donor registration fund to facilitate the registration of residents as organ and tissue donors. Representative Sánchez also secured House approval of a bill that will make it easier for the state to crack down on deceitful medical practitioners who provide a steady supply of controlled substances to persons suffering drug addiction. The bill will now move to the Senate for debate and further action