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Junk food ban for Illinois schools wins approval


Chicago, Ill. – A legislative committee in Illinois approved a plan Tuesday to ban the sale of junk food in elementary and middle schools.

The vote means the ban will take effect as soon as the state Board of Education files the proper paperwork. Soda, chips and candy won't be allowed in school in vending machines.

The 8-4 vote by the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules reversed a 10-1 vote in April that had temporarily halted the push against junk food.

State Sen. Steve Rauschenberger, R-Elgin, was one of four Republican committee members who voted against the ban. He said the vote was rushed through in time for next month's election.

"For some reason they have ants in their pants; it may have to do with a Tuesday in November and that's not the way to make public policy," Rauschenberger said.

"The problem is our kids aren't eating right. Simple bans that make politicians look good don't solve the nutrition problem."

Meanwhile, school administrators said the ban was overly restrictive and would be difficult to implement.

"We strongly opposed this ban all the way through the process. We're a little disappointed today," said Ben Schwarm, spokesman for the Illinois Statewide School Management Alliance.

This should not be dictated from the state, locally elected school boards should be making these decisions."

Existing Illinois State Board of Education rules already prohibited the sale of junk food in elementary schools during breakfast and lunch. Soon, junk food will be banned during the entire school day including from vending machines for students in kindergarten through 8th grade, although certain districts can request an exemption for the 2006-2007 school year.

The ban will take effect once ISBE files the proper paperwork, ISBE spokeswoman Meta Minton said.

Nuts, seeds, fruits, non-fried vegetables or low-fat yogurt products would be allowed, but food in which calories from fat exceeds 35% would be barred.

The rules for drinks allow whole, 2%, low-fat or nonfat milk or alternative dairy beverages like soy or rice milk. Approved items also include water and drinks that contain 50% or more fruit or vegetable juice.

The rules only apply to food that is sold to students at school. Children can still bring snacks from home, Minton said.

ISBE approved the new rules in March before submitting them to the Joint Committee, a bipartisan panel that reviews proposed changes in state rules and regulations.

"We are pleased to see the new junk food rules moving forward, because we know that a healthy diet contributes to the learning readiness and well-being of the children of Illinois," ISBE Chairman Jesse Ruiz said.