Healthy School Snacks Mandatory?

September 23, 2003  -- Posted at 7:38 a.m. CDT

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.  -- A state health committee is considering whether all Arkansas schools should stock vending machines with healthy snacks. T

he discussions follow passage of a state law this spring that created the Child Health Advisory Committee. Its job is to help develop nutrition and physical activity standards for the state's 450-thousand public school children.

Under the law, starting this school year, elementary school students cannot have access to vending machines on campus. The committee also wants to evaluate the contents and nutritional value of the items sold in the machines. The panel will require schools to disclose how much they make from the machines and the soft-drink contracts and how that money is spent.

Some schools already have taken steps on their own. El Dorado Superintendent Bob Watson said vending machines at his district's schools serving seventh through 12th grade students were changed midway through last school year to offer healthier items.

Soda machines now offer only diet sodas, bottled water and fruit juices that aren't high in sugar. Snack machines have switched to things like granola bars and pretzels rather than honey buns and chocolate cookies.

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