Bill Banning Junk Food in Schools Called 'Legislative Lunacy'

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:21 PM EDT

( - Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, is pressing for passage of a bill that would remove candy, chips and other snack foods from the nation's public schools. But one group has condemned the bill as "legislative lunacy."

Harkin's bill, according to his website, would give the Department of Agriculture the authority to regulate sales of junk food at schools, while also providing grants to schools so they could provide healthier food alternatives.

Harkin was appearing at a press conference on Tuesday along with representatives from the Center for Science in the Public Interest -- a group nicknamed the "Food Police" after warning the public about the dangers of movie popcorn. This is the same group that described fettuccine alfredo as a "heart attack on a plate."

In Tuesday's appearance with Sen. Harkin, the CSPI planned to release a new survey on the "nutritional quality" of foods in school vending machines.

Harkin's website said he has "long been an advocate of improving child nutrition at school by removing junk foods and promoting healthier alternatives." He supports a pilot program that would give more than 100 schools free, fresh fruits and vegetables.

But the Center for Individual Freedom (CFIF) -- a group that advocates individual liberty -- says Harkin's anti-junk-food bill would have harmful repercussions:

"Senator Harkin and his co-sponsors have hopped on the 'we know what's best for your children' bandwagon. But this mandate will only suck much-needed money out of schools while failing to teach children about personal responsibility and how to make good nutritional choices," said Marshall Manson, the CFIF's Vice President of Public Affairs.

"Local school districts, parents, teachers, and students should decide what foods are available at schools, not the federal government," Manson said. Sen. Harkin's bill would remove choices and mandate behavior -- and "that's the wrong approach," he added.

CFIF noted that school vending machines and food-sale fundraisers represent a major source of revenue for local schools. Such fund-raisers pay for field trips and other activities that give students experiences they would otherwise forego.

"A federal mandate won't stop children from eating the foods they want," Manson said.

CFIF noted that students can bring junk food from home, if they can't get it at school. Or even worse, he said, more kids will go off campus -- at schools that allow it -- to get the foods they want. "That would put more children on the road where they can get hurt," Manson said.

And finally, CFIF said, reducing the number of participants in the federal lunch program would take more money out of local schools.

"A crisis of obesity does not require legislative lunacy," Manson concluded.

The Center for Individual Freedom describes itself as a non-profit, non-partisan constitutional advocacy organization dedicated to protecting individual liberty and individual freedom.

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