by Marion Nestle
Dec 5 2007

School nutrition standards: what to do?

I can’t help getting caught up in the arguments about school nutrition standards, particularly because I was quoted in an article about them in the New York Times last week. I am very much of two minds on the subject:

On the one hand: My understanding is that Senator Harkin thinks that his plan for school nutrition standards is the best that can be expected in the current administration. Will the next Farm Bill do something better? I have no idea. So from a pragmatic standpoint, Harkin’s bill is worth supporting. It will get the worst foods out of most schools in most places.

On the other hand: With that said, I personally do not favor setting up nutrient-based criteria for deciding which foods are in or out. I think such standards are a slippery slope. If you set those kinds of standards, food companies will simply formulate products to slip just under the cut points. Does a gram of sugar make that much difference? I don’t think so. My personal view is that schools shouldn’t sell competing foods at all and that vending machines should be removed from schools. Out! Vending machines didn’t used to be in schools and they don’t have to be there now. But, as I like to explain, I have tenure and I get to take principled positions on such matters.

Opinions, please!

And, if you read Portuguese, you can see further comments on this site.

And here’s what the New York Times editorial writers have to say about this issue.