". . . If, as may be suspected, there is a nationwide anticandy program being put together area by area, there is need everywhere for vigilance at the local level that will lead to quick and effective response by candy business men . . ."
According to the above excerpt from an editorial in "Candy and Snack Industry," a trade journal, attempts last year to remove "empty calorie" snacks from school vending machines were confined to local jurisdictions. Unable to get the federal government to confront the problem of such foods competing with the school lunch programs, the state of West Virginia, and cities including Bloomington, Ind., Milwaukee, and Washington, D.C., have taken it upon themselves to ban what they call "junk foods" from school property.
Actually, according to the same editorial, it was the confectionary industry that succeeded in keeping the federal government from banning such sales: "The National Confectioners Association and the National Candy Wholesalers Association have worked together effectively to prevent anticandy rulings from becoming part of the National School Lunch Act over the years . . ."
But now the battleground, to use a word from the editorial, is switching or rather expanding to the national scene. An amendment to the Senate Agriculture Committee's version of the Child Nutrition Act (school feeding programs) would return discretionary powers to the Secretary of Agriculture to decide what alternate foods could be sole at schools.
On September 26, 1972, the Child Nutrition Act was amended to permit the sale of foods in addition to those sanctioned by the Department of Agriculture in the school lunch and breakfast programs. The amendment said: ". . . Such regulations shall not prohibit the sale of competitive foods in food service facilities or areas during the time of service of food if the proceeds from the sales of such foods will inure to the benefit of the schools or of organizations of students approved by the schools."
Twice before, Sen. Clifford Case (R-N.J.) has introduced legislation to delete that amendment.Each time it has been defeated. Case is trying again.
Those who favor removing such foods as candy, soft drinks, chewing gum, potato chips and pretzels from school vending machines think they might win this time. They are encouraged for a number of reasons:
The attempt at local levels to deal with the problem have made themselves felt at the federal level. Secretary of Agriculture Bob Berlgnad has come out strongly in favor of a ban on junk foods. Sen. Robert Dole (R-Kan.) pushed for the Case amendment. In past years he had stopped the amendment from getting out of committee. Sen. Hubert Humphrey (D-Minn.) is expected to work hard for it.
So the counter-lobbyists are out in force, The Chocolate Manufacturers Association has written to all the members of the Senate Agriculture Committee protesting the Case amendment. The letter says that chocolate does not cause acne, obesity or tooth decay and is nutritious. It asks: ". . . Why deprive children of an production of which strengthens our agricultural economy and provides employment to many Americans?"
The editorial from "Candy and Snack Industry" says that removing candy from schools just means children would go off school premises to purchase it where they would be "exposed to vehicular traffic and other hazards beyond the control of school authorities."
James Mack, president and general counsel of the National Confectioners Association, elaborated on the hazards in a letter. When children leave shool grounds, Mack wrote, they "well may decide to acquire other items which actually are harmful to them such as tobacco, alcohol or drugs . . ."
Mack also wrote: "To most children candy is happiness."
When candy sales are banned, Mack added, "nothing is solved, but school authorities in effect, throw the matter out on the streets to be settled."
The National Automatic Merchandising Association offered some of the same arguments in material sent to members of the Senate last month.
Individual vendors and owners of soft drink bottling plants have been writing their congressmen saying the legislation would put them out of business.
Those who are working to get the nonnutritious snacks out of the schools agree that children may seek sweets elsewhere if they are not educated about the importance of a nutritionally well-balanced diet. According to Josephine Martin, president of the American School Food Service Assn. (ASFSA): "When children are given a choice between a filling food which tastes good, and a nutritionally adequate meal, it's very hard for a child who has had no nutrition education to choose a nutritionally adequate meal.
"The number of one need is to have a nutrition education program so young people learn what they have to eat in the school cafeteria in relationship to health."
This year's Child Nutrition Act also contains an amendment that would require nutrition education in the schools; but as the bill stands now, no funds are appropriated in the bill to fund such a program.
Those who support the Case amendment along with ASFSA, such as the National Dental Assn., American Nurses Assn., American Dietetic Assn., Society of Nutrition Education, are lobbying for its passage on economic as well as health grounds. The dollar value of food wasted in schools annually has been estimated at between $400 and $600 million.
"We've declared war on waste," Martin said. "One of the reasons children do not eat the food in the school lunch program is because of the foods served in competition with it.
"We have to get rid of foods which are nonnutritious," she said.
Martin, a registered dietician, defines nonnutritious foods as those which supply "no significant amount of nutritional value beyond empty calories." She said she was putting herself "out on a limb" by listing such foods but she would classify candy bars, soda pop, pretzels, potato chips and corn chips as nonnutritious.
The candy industry, the chocolate manufacturers, the vendors who sell the products, do not argue the merits of nutrition as much as they do the issue of what Martin calls "states rights." According to Mack of the Confectioners Assn.: "States, local jurisdictions and individual school boards are capable of making such decisions . . ."
Martin said trying to combat that kind of argument is "like coming out against motherhood and apple pie."
The Senate Agriculture Committee has decided however, that the crux of the matter is how ". . . counterproductive (it is) for the federal government to attempt to provide nutritious health supporting meals through the child nutrition programs and, at the same time, permit foods of low nutritional value to directly compete with the nutritious meals."
The lobbyists who oppose the Case amendment often find allies among [WORD ILLEGIBLE] principals who fear the loss of [WORD ILLEGIBLE] from vending machines if "empty calorie" snacks are replaced by nutritious snacks.
That has not been the experience in West Virginia where a ban on junk foods went into effect at the beginning of the 1976-77 school year. According to an official of the state's child nutrition programs: "There has been no significant change in the money coming from the vending machines or in the attendance at school lunches. We consider the ban a success."
Rep. Albert Quie (R-Minn.), who, in the past, has forced the House-Senate conference on the Child Nutrition Act to delete amendments similar to the Case amendment, said he would not oppose legislation specifying that nutritious foods could be sold as alternatives to the regular school lunch. Quie said: "I don't mind cutting out the candy or the pop lobbies. I don't see that either of those two are good for kids."
Agriculture Secretary Bergland, with whom final authority would rest if the Case amendment passes, agrees with Quie. And according to the authors of the Agriculture Committee legislation, the bill would "permit the sale of nutritious foods, such as fruits, vegetables, dairy products, pure fruit and vegetables juices, and other items determined to be nutritious."
The bill is expected to go to the floor of the Senate sometime this summer.