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Copyright 2014 Star Tribune
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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

WASHINGTON - Even the scoreboards in high school gyms will have to advertise only healthy foods under new rules announced Tuesday by the Obama administration.

Promotion of sugary drinks and junk foods around campuses during the school day will be phased out under the rules, intended to ensure that such marketing is brought in line with health standards that already apply to school foods.

That means a scoreboard at a high school football or basketball game wouldn't be allowed to advertise Coca-Cola, for example, but it could advertise Diet Coke or Dasani water, which is also owned by Coca-Cola Co. Same with vending machines, cups, posters and menu boards which promote foods that don't meet the standards.

Drinks are highly promoted

Ninety-three percent of such marketing in schools is related to beverages, and many soda companies already have started to transition their sales and advertising in schools from sugary sodas and sports drinks to their own healthier products. Still, companies are spending $149 million a year on marketing to kids in schools, according to USDA.

The proposed rules are part of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move initiative to combat child obesity.

"The idea here is simple - our classrooms should be healthy places where kids aren't bombarded with ads for junk food," she said.

The rules come on the heels of USDA regulations that now require foods in the school lunch line to be healthier.

More rules kick in next year

Rules set to go into effect next school year will make other foods around school healthier as well. Calorie, fat, sugar and sodium limits will have to be met on almost every food and beverage sold during the school day. Concessions sold at sports games after school are exempt.

Some metro-area high schools have new scoreboards that include logos of local companies, including restaurants, that helped pay for them. A larger number of schools use drink cups with beverage company names or logos on them.

At Eastview High School in Apple Valley, scoreboard signage is limited to a construction firm and a towing company, but teams use drink cups and jugs sponsored by Gatorade, said activities director Matt Percival. If the ban extended to those sorts of drinks, the school would need to find another option, he said.

"The greatest impact could be if [the ban] extended into what is offered at concession stands,'' Percival said, noting the usual fare of hot dogs, candy bars, popcorn and chips that booster clubs sell at games.

"The big issue is the money that comes from advertising and how those sorts of things offset costs," said Mike Beck, executive secretary for the Minnesota Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association. "A lot of money has dried up since Coke and Pepsi were pulled from schools."

Staff writer Jim Paulsen contributed to this report.


February 26, 2014




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