Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, May 6, 2003
CONTACT: Doris Sanchez
Phone: (512) 463-0127

Senate Education Committee approves bill creating joint interim committee to study nutrition and health of public school children

AUSTIN, TX - To address obesity and its related health problems among public schoolchildren, the Senate Education Committee today approved a bill by state Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. that would create a joint interim committee to study nutrition and health in public schools.

Sen. Lucio presented a new version of Senate Bill 474, which he originally introduced with restrictions on competitive and vending machine foods and beverages. Heavy lobbying by school administrators, trustees, and the competitive food and vending machine industries against the bill prevented a majority vote for the earlier version.

Although my preference would have been to start restricting foods and beverages of no nutritional value during school meal times, I am pleased that we will continue to address this issue through public hearings that will involve all stakeholdersparents, educators, administrators, the competitive food and beverage industries, nutritionists, medical professionals, and of course the Legislature and the Commissioners of Education, Health and Agriculture.

In addition to the three Commissioners, four public members, three Senators appointed by the Lieutenant Governor and three Representatives appointed by the Speaker of the House would comprise the interim committee. The Governors public appointees would be a physician who provides health services to school-aged children, a nutrition expert, a parent of a school-aged child and a superintendent or principal.

Child obesity rates in Texas are increasing faster than the national rate, which has more than doubled in the last two decades. Overweight and obese children are at higher risk for serious long-term health problems, including Type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke, hypertension, high blood pressure, gallbladder disease, asthma and certain cancers. The incidence of childhood obesity and its serious health consequences affect all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic classes, and overweight children at the age of 12 have a 75 percent risk of being overweight as adults.

As a grandfather, I want to ensure that by the time my grandchildren start school, foods and beverages provided by our schools are of the highest quality and nutritional standards, noted Sen. Lucio.

The committees goals would be to:

(1) determine the nutritional content and quality of foods and beverages served to public school children, including school food service meals, a la carte foods, and competitive and vending machine foods and beverages;

(2) evaluate the short- and long-term financial, psychological, and physiological impact of obesity on public school children;

(3) assess the academic, emotional and health value of a universal breakfast and lunch program by evaluating school children from school districts that provide each child a free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch;

(4) evaluate school contracts relating to competitive food products and vending machines, as well as related issues like economic and other impacts of potential conflicts of interest, the length of contracts, revenues realized, officials in charge of the revenues and the extent that competitive foods impact each school districts food service program.

I realize revenues from vending machines and other competitive foods are important, but what is the price of the health of our children? added Sen. Lucio. And these vendors can and do produce nutritional products like juice, water and granola bars. There are other choices besides sugary drinks and fatty foods. All we have to do is commit to providing them.

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Note: The bill will now go to the full Senate for consideration.

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