School bells will soon ring in not just a new year, but a new era of nutrition as Massachusetts’s law strictly limiting the foods that can be sold in vending machines and other non-lunch spots takes effect. Starting in September, schools won’t be allowed to sell fried foods, sugary drinks, and any item that exceeds 200 calories, except for fruit and yogurt, outside of the federally subsidized breakfast and lunch programs.
If that sounds harsh, a new study in the medical journal Pediatrics confirms that the Commonwealth is on the right track. Based on 6,300 elementary and middle-school students in 40 states, the study found healthier-weight children in places with strong laws limiting “competitive foods,” i.e. those sold outside federal school meal programs. Lead author Daniel Taber of the University of Illinois at Chicago said in an interview that the findings are “very encouraging that we are not wasting our time setting standards.”
The Bay State already has the third-lowest obesity rate in the nation, according to the Trust for America’s Health. Many Massachusetts school districts have already earned national publicity for bringing fresh foods and exercise into schools and getting junk food out. With the new law, the whole state will share in this nutritional renaissance.