SALEM, Ore. – The Senate on Tuesday passed what some called a watered-down version of a bill that would have banned junk food in schools, but now directs school districts to develop wellness policies.
The bill’s transformation drew criticism from student advocates and some lawmakers who said the bill was gutted to appease interest groups and school districts, which get money from vending machine sales. But supporters said the bill, which reinforces a similar federal law, is a necessary step in getting parents and school officials involved in student eating habits. The bill passed 20-9 and was sent to the House.
“I think that this bill would have been a feel-good bill if all we would have done is ban certain foods,” said Sen. Vicki Walker, D-Eugene, who introduced the bill to the Senate.
Under the bill, school districts would need to form wellness policy councils, consisting of parents and school officials, who would decide districtwide standards on nutrition in the school. The districts would then submit reports to the state before the 2006 school year begins.
The similar federal law applies only to schools that participate in the federal free lunch program. Seventeen districts in Oregon do not participate in that program, Walker said.