On March 11, 2010, Senator Chang-Diaz voted in favor of a bill establishing new nutritional standards in schools to address the problem of childhood obesity in the Commonwealth. Food and beverages in school cafeterias, vending machines and other locations in public schools separate from federal meal programs must be in compliance. The Senate vote for passage of this bill was a unanimous one.
The standards, to be implemented by the 2012-13 school year, will be developed by the Department of Public Health and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and include requirements for the availability of free drinking water, fresh fruits and vegetables, and nutritional information for non-packaged foods. The use of deep fryers is banned. The regulations do not apply to bake sales, concession stands and other school-sponsored events.
The nutrition bill also requires issues of nutrition and exercise to be included in the educational curriculum, and it establishes a commission to make recommendations related the management of childhood obesity, type 2 diabetes and eating disorders.
As a way to further promote wholesome food options and locally grown products, the bill encourages statewide adoption of the successful “Farm-to-School” program, which creates contracts between local farms and public schools to provide fresh fruits, vegetables and ingredients. The bill also adds state colleges and universities to the requirement that state agencies or authorities give preferential treatment to local farms when purchasing agricultural products.