Not-So-Sweet News

Conn. Governor Vetoes Ban on Junk Food & Soda

When I learned that Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell vetoed a bill that would have banned most soft drinks and junk food from Connecticut schools and add 20 minutes of exercise outside school, I was simply appalled.

It seems to me that her excuses just aren’t convincing. Rell, a Republican, allegedly rejected Act Concerning School Nutrition for “usurping the longstanding authority of our local school districts,” as she explained in a statement. She also faulted the proposed legislation, because it “undermines the control and responsibility of parents with school-aged children.”

I suspect that a another, more sinister, monetary-based, political situation is at play here. It was well known that soft drink companies heavily lobbied  against the bill, allegedly spending about $250,000, according to Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams, Jr. (D-Brooklyn), a backer of the bill.

Williams calls Rell’s move the “biggest blunder” of her administration. “I’m very interested that the governor chose to protect the junk food industry instead of to protect the health of children in our schools.”

The legislation attracted national attention, and it was hotly debated in both the House and Senate. Proponents believed that removing soda and junk food from the schools “would teach students about good nutrition choices and help combat childhood obesity,” according to The Stamford Advocate. On the other hand, “opponents claimed the bill usurped the role of parents.”

The arguments against the bill strike me as ludicrous. I didn’t hear about any parents complaining that their food-making decisions were being hijacked from them. Quite the opposite. A survey of 500 residents, conducted in March by the University of Connecticut for End Hunger in Connecticut found that 70 percent of parents were in favor of a ban on soda in the schools.

So, it seems that Gov. Rell’s veto is a blatant disregard of what the people of Connecticut want–the folks she’s supposed to be serving.

I agree with the assessment of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which claims that by “siding with soda companies, Governor Rell has undermined parents’ ability to feed their children healthful diets.

Even though Rell stopped the nutrition bill, her statement says she’s directing the Commissioner of the State Department of Education to develop and recommend guidelines for comprehensive school policies.

That’s all well and good, but legislation can hep get things done more quickly and thoroughly. Lucy Noland, executive director of End Hunger Connecticut, calls Rell’s plan “an empty promise,” especially since school officials have been unwilling to do away with junk food. The only way any of these schools were going to do anything was if this bill was passed and signed,” she said.

All said and done, I just don’t buy Rell’s stated motives. Money talks, especially in the tune of a quarter million dollars from soda companies. How sad that reveration for the dollar spoke so loudly when the heatlh of our nation’s kids is at stake.

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