Incoming Ag. Commissioner Putnam seeks to delay ban on sugary beverages in schools
The State Board of Education will likely not be taking up debate on the issue of banning sugary drinks in schools at its Dec. 17 meeting in Miami, following a personal request by Agriculture Commissioner-elect Adam Putnam that the matter be delayed in order to reevaluate the overall food service provided by public schools.
In a letter to State Board chairman T. Willard Fair (.pdf) dated Nov. 28, Putnam advocates for moving school feeding programs under the umbrella of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, while noting that a focus on certain sodas and chocolate milk — Florida would have become the first state to ban the sale of chocolate milk in schools — fails to address the broader picture of school nutrition.
From Putnam’s letter:
One such area that I look forward to tackling is ensuring that Florida’s students have better nutrition options to reduce obesity and related long-term health risks. This is a topic your Board has discussed recently for possible policy recommendations. However, instead of looking at the entire nutrition intake of students, you have chosen to focus only on the nutrition content in beverages served in Florida schools.
It is my belief that any nutrition improvement plan needs to be certain that students are receiving the best possible nutrition package, in concert with total wellness initiatives, to allow them to reach their optimum achievement potential. I believe in this approach so much that I campaigned on doing what other states have done, and that is transferring the school feeding programs into FDACS, with a goal of improved nutrition and the development of better lifelong eating habits.
First steps would be to take a comprehensive look at current school foodservice offerings, rather than making individual product recommendations that do not address the broader health picture. This comprehensive approach will need time to develop and I would appreciate your Board considering delaying any plans to address just a single component of the nutrition factors and instead allow time for a complete approach to building a healthier generation of Florida students.
Putnam’s desire to have his department manage school food programs seems to be line with President Obama’s new child nutrition bill, which was signed into law Monday and gives new authority to the Department of Agriculture to establish standards for all school lunches and provides additional funding for federally subsidized lunches to districts whose schools meet the updated requirements.
In addition, the bill calls for an increase in the use of local food in school lunches, the creation of school gardens, and expanded access to drinking water, while establishing basic standards for school wellness policies with regard to goals for nutrition promotion, education and physical activity.