Ridding the Schools of High Sugar, Low-Nutrition “Food”

The Dallas school trustees voted 7-1 the other day to bar sugar-rich or zero-nutrition foods and drinks from school vending machines. The move could spark similar decisions across the country, which is why the $5 billion vending machine industry is watching closely.

Trustee Nancy Judy was the persuasive mover behind the board’s decision to provide students with “optimal health choices.” Standard vending machines provide choices overwhelming in non-nutritious terms, such as soda pop, candy bars, chewing gum, additive-filled pastries and coffee.

Effective next September, Dallas school vending machines will contain fruit and vegetable juices, cheese products, crackers, fresh fruits and nuts, and low-fat milk.

Ms. Judy’s proposal, which the board adopted with one member, a local Coca-Cola bottling executive, abstaining, has solid support from many leading nutritionists and health specialists. Last. September,

452 health professionals, including Prof. Jean Mayer of Harvard University, petitioned the General Services Administration in Washington to require its vending machine contractors in federal buildings to include nutritious food in at least half of the vending slots.

It is fully within GSA’s authority to require some restraint in the selling of junk or harmful products by companies licensed to do business on federal property. GSA’s response to the suggestion was lukewarm at best.

Non-nutritious vending machine products do more than disturb dentists and promote cavities. They frequently contain high concentrations of sugar or salt or fat. Hundreds of thousands of people in the country suffer from diseases connected, in part, to diets high in sugar, fat and other junk-food ingredients, according to Mayer and his co-petitioners. What the Dallas school trustees recognized is that the groundwork for such adult diseases is laid in the diets which children experience.

It is interesting to note the opposition to the Dallas decision. Some school officials and students said the replacement of sugar-rich products would reduce the profits the schools obtain from vending machine commissions. The lone abstaining voter, Laurence Herkimer, suggested that there would be disciplinary problems with students leaving school to buy sweets in nearby stores.

Supporters of the pro-nutrition action dismissed such problems as subordinate to the needs of health and common sense.

The food and drink companies have not yet mobilized, and you can be sure they will in some fashion or another. They are not satisfied that stores and many school cafeterias will still sell their sweet- toothed offerings to children.

Parents and other consumers interested in the experience and advice of one wise Indiana housewife, Jean Farmer, on how to adopt the Dallas-type decision in their communities can write to her, enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope, at 1115 E. Wyley, Bloomington, Ind., 47401.

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