Public Health Council approves school nutrition plan

Public Health Council approves school nutrition plan

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The state Public Health Council on Wednesday approved regulations that will require schools to provide children with low-fat milk, fruit juice, and water, ban soda and sugary drinks, require fresh fruits and vegetables to be sold in school cafeterias, promote whole grain breads, and ensure that water is available to students for free throughout the school day.

The Massachusetts Public Health Association claimed Wednesday that the regulations could make Massachusetts a national leader on school nutrition. According to the association, one-third of Massachusetts school students are overweight, leading to a higher rate of absences and driving up health costs.

The regulations, which stem from a law approved by the Legislature and Gov. Deval Patrick in July 2010, would take effect in the 2012-2013 school year.

According to the Department of Public Health, rules eliminating beverages with added sugar or sweeteners will take effect Aug. 1, 2013, as well as regulations governing the availability of nutritional information. The department is preparing documents to help guide schools as administrators face the task of implementing the new regulations.

The state Department of Education and the John Stalker Institute are preparing training programs for school personnel. The Boston Foundation, which pushed for the regulations, applauded the final product. “The standards combine common sense with the best science, and these regulations go a long way to ensure Massachusetts school children have the healthy and safe food options,” the foundation said in a statement. “These standards will help change the culture of food in our public schools and give students in our public schools a better chance of making healthier choices and maintaining a healthy weight.”