November 6th, 2001

California Legislators Ban Sale of Junk Food in Elementary, Middle Schools

By Bradley Weaver
North County Times

Junk-food sales will be a thing of the past at elementary and middle school campuses, but it will still be sold at high schools despite legislation aimed at improving the health of all students by snubbing out sugar-loaded snacks.

Groups representing superintendents and food service workers recently talked lawmakers into toning down a nutrition bill by state Sen. Martha Escutia, D-Montebello, who wants students to give up fast-food fare and learn to eat healthier meals on campus.

The original bill would have placed on outright ban on the sale of junk food at elementary and middle schools. It also would have greatly reduced candy and soda sales through high school vending machines ---- a major fund-raising outlet for schools.

But the bill that was signed by Gov. Gray Davis last month looks much different.  While it prohibits the sale of junk food in elementary schools ---- where sales are minimal ---- and bans the sale of soda on middle school campuses, it leaves high schools virtually untouched.

The outcome has upset health officials who want junk food eliminated altogether, but school leaders are letting out sighs of relief knowing the major fund-raising outlet for campus groups and sports teams will be preserved.

“I’m glad because it would have put us into a bind to lose that funding,” said Mavis Shutes, activities director at Temescal CanyonHigh School in Lake Elsinore. “We make $ 800 each month from candy sales alone. To have it taken away would force us to cut back or make students pay for extra things.”

Those extras are anything from water polo nets to entrance fees at sporting tournaments to awards for high-achieving students to graduation night programs, school leaders say. Most money is poured into the Associated Student Body where it is divided upamong school programs.

High school leaders across Southwest County say the law, which takes effect July 2004, would have been devastating if it stopped the sale of sodas and snacks.  At Murrieta Valley High School, for example, soda sales generate $ 25,000 a year for the school. Temecula Valley High School collects about $ 10,000 a year from soda sales.

Although the law will target elementary and middle schools, those campuses rely much less on the sale of sodas from vending machines for fund-raising efforts.

At middle schools, the measure bans the sale of sodas until after lunch and could boost state money for meals for low-income children from 13 cents to 26 cents.

Pam Keller, principal at Vail Ranch Middle School in Temecula, applauded the law’s intentions, but said her school’s lunch service, which operates semi-autonomously within the school district, could lose money if sodas are pulled from the menu.

“If there is a drop in sales, then this bill could have a drastic effect on how we handle our food service,” she said. “The intention to limit the amount of soda is great but we’ll have to see how it pans out.”

The measure sets limits on the amount of allowable fat and sugar in snacks and beverages but most schools are already incompliance, school officials said.

Randy Rogers, principal at Alta Murrieta Elementary School in Murrieta, said the law will not have much of an impact at his campus because junk food is kept to a minimum.

“For the most part what our cafeteria serves is pretty nutritious,” he said. “Our only concern is when students bring lunches with too much soda or candy to school. But there’s not much we can do about that.”

Meanwhile, California is among dozens of states trying to raise nutrition standards in schools in hopes of reducing obesity among students. In his signing the bill into law, Gov. Davis said it could help significantly improve the nutrition and eating habits of California’s schoolchildren.

“Childhood obesity has become an epidemic in the United States,” he said. “While poor diet and inactivity have been found to adversely influence the ability to learn and decrease motivation and attentiveness, healthy food has a positive impact on academic achievement.”

Childhood obesity and diabetes rates have exploded, up 30 percent in the past 20 years, and medical evidence points to children’s increased consumption of fast food and sodas as major culprits. According to estimates, about 74 percent of boys and 65 percent of girls drink at least one soda a day.

A Public Health Institute study last year revealed that 95 percent of California school districts sell fast foods and junk foods on campus. In some California school districts, as many as 50 percent of students are overweight, according to a state report.

But vending machines are not all filled with junk food, school administrators say. At most high schools, drink machines also sell juice, water and milk.

“Kids eat much healthier than you think,” Shutes said. “It’s not just junk food that we sell. Believe it or not, salads are real popular.”


  1. Posted by Kayla on December 5th, 2005

    im a student and i go to a high school that is considering banning junkfood. idont think it is fair because if us students want to be unhealthy its our choice! (personally i dont eat junk food) but if student want to i think they should be allowed to! its their choice to be unhealthy

  2. Posted by Nikki on December 29th, 2005

    I think that even though by selling junk food to earn money for the school is both easy and profitable, what message is this sending? Are teachers willing to sacrifice the health of thier students to earn money? There are many other fundraisers that we can use. By us selling them all this junk they wont be able to do the sports that we are earning the money for.

  3. Posted by Nataly on February 2nd, 2006

    I am a student that attends a high school in the high desert, and as may have read they said soda was taken away from elementry schools and middle school but not high schools, well it was taken away from my school! along with certain other snacks. And my opinion is that its good to take it away from elementry and middle schools. But just so they learn good habits and once you enter high school its finally your choice. Everyone say we’re young adults, but only to what benifits you!

  4. Posted by Thrudy on February 18th, 2006

    Im a high school student in California and I’ve been researching about this big problem and I totally agree that they should take away junk food from my school. Junk food is dangerous! we can’t keep turnin into a overweighted generation. PE is not enough for us! we need more healthy choices.

  5. Posted by Judd on March 7th, 2006

    I think that california and other states should take away junk food from elementary schools and middle schools because children from those ages do not really see the harm those foods are doing for their boddys.  But I also think that they should not take them away from high schools because those kids allready know what they are doing, and they are more aware of the over weight problem in the united states

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