State Assemblywoman Sandra Galef announced today that she is developing legislation to prohibit the sale of junk food and soda from vending machines located anywhere on public school property. She plans to formally introduce her bill next January at the start of the Legislative Session.
In view of the dramatic rise in childhood obesity and diabetes, it is critical that New York State takes immediate steps to better address the issue of childhood nutrition, said Galef. Experts warn us that obese children frequently suffer lifelong physical and emotional harm. Our schools should be places where children learn how to lead healthy lives, not where they will be tempted by vending machines selling junk food on a daily basis.
It is well established that good eating habits can lower the risk of illness and heart disease. An October 2002 Center for Disease Control study found that 15% of children between 6-19 years old are overweight or obese, two times as many as 20 years ago. The study also found that 10% of children 2-5 years old are overweight, and over 300,000 American children have health problems related to Type II diabetes. Some of the attendant risk of Type II diabetes include blindness, kidney failure, heart attack, stroke, and death.
Galef has found that there is real interest in this issue across the state. I especially applaud the recent efforts of New York City Council members David Yassky and Christine Quinn, who have just proposed local legislation that would penalize New York City schools that sell sugary snacks in competition with school meal programs. Our schools should never be used to promote poor eating habits. Food sold in school cafeterias must adhere to federal nutritional guidelines set by the US Department of Agriculture, but those guidelines do not apply to vending machines.
Following up on her recent public forum on Childrens Health, Galef is creating a new Task Force on Childrens Health, which will focus on ways for government and communities to better meet the needs of the youngest members of our families. Anyone interested in serving on the Task Force should contact the Assemblywomans district office at (914) 941-1111.