September 8, 2005-- Posted at 2:25 PM CDT
Junk food, including candy, soda, and pizza, competes with nutritious meals in nine of 10 U.S. schools, a new government survey found.
"Parents should know that our schools are now one of the largest sources of unhealthy food for their kids," Sen. Tom Harkin told the Associated Press. Harkin, who asked the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct the study, is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee.
The less-healthy fare is often available in vending machines and in school stores, the AP said. It is largely unregulated, although many schools raise substantial funds from sales of these types of food.
Of 656 schools sampled, vending machines were available in almost all high schools and middle schools, but in fewer than half of elementary schools, the GAO found.
Three-quarters of high schools and 65 percent of middle schools had exclusive soft drink contacts, the GAO said. The figure in middle schools was up from 26 percent five years ago, the AP said.