Illinois bars junk food in some schools

Friday, March 17, 2006

The ban, which takes effect in August, does not apply to high schools.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- The Illinois State Board of Education on Thursday voted to ban junk food in elementary and middle schools starting this fall.

The board answered a request from Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who urged the board last fall to adopt the prohibition. Board members approved the measure 7-2.

The ban, which takes effect when students return in August, prohibits the sale of soda, chips and candy before and during the school day for pupils through eighth grade.

"Good nutrition helps children attend school more regularly, behave better when they're in school, and score better on tests," Blagojevich said in a statement. "But despite the obvious reasons to eat healthy, for children, the temptation to eat junk food can just be too great. Today, the state board approved rules to reduce this temptation for kids."

Local school officials have complained, pointing out that they get crucial streams of revenue from vending machine sales.

The plan originally included high schools, but they were exempted. Blagojevich sought legislative approval for the plan two years ago, but it went nowhere.

Board chairman Jesse Ruiz of Chicago said it's the "first step" in fighting childhood obesity. He said he hopes the rule can change behavior since it targets younger children.

"We don't want to impose burdensome rules on districts, but we do want them to make this a priority in the lives of their students," Ruiz said.

Board member Joyce Karon of Barrington, who voted against it, said the ban does burden districts by creating more regulations.

"I cannot tell schools that we need to give them another rule when we have worked so diligently to reduce the number of rules that are here," Karon said.

Board member Dean Clark of Glen Ellyn, who also voted against it, said it was an issue for local control.

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