Discussion of Competitive Foods Tops Agenda at ASFSA Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C.

Norwalk, Connecticut, UNITED STATES

ALEXANDRIA, Va., Feb. 20, 2001 (PRIMEZONE) -- Approximately 700 members of the American School Food Service Association (ASFSA) are scheduled to convene in Washington, D.C., next month to discuss key policy issues pertinent to school meal programs and child nutrition. Perhaps the most vital topic during ASFSA's Legislative Action Conference will be the impact of competitive foods on children and schools.

ASFSA's 29th annual Legislative Action Conference -- titled "2001: A Legislative Odyssey" -- will run from March 4 through March 7 at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C.

The conference will include informative sessions featuring speakers from Congress, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the school foodservice industry; a keynote address by veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas; a hearing before the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee; and visits by ASFSA members to their Representatives and Senators to present and discuss ASFSA's Legislative Issue Paper.

Primary among the positions taken in this year's issue paper is ASFSA's support for legislation to re-establish the authority of the USDA Secretary to regulate the sale of all foods throughout the entire school system until the end of the school day. A USDA report issued in January stated that competitive foods, such as soft drinks and candy, can undermine the benefits that school meals help to promote in terms of nutrition and the development of healthy eating habits for a lifetime.

According to the USDA's Jan. 23 report on competitive foods, food and drink sold in competition with school meals: (1) pose diet-related health risks; (2) may stigmatize participation in school meal programs; (3) may affect the viability of school meal programs; and (4) convey a mixed message to students.

"We are excited about the opportunity to make our case before the Senate Agriculture Committee and to get our membership out on Capitol Hill to talk about the need for giving the USDA more authority over competitive foods," ASFSA President Marilyn Hurt said. "We don't believe there are any bad foods, but we strongly believe that nutritionally balanced meals that serve as a catalyst for healthy eating habits must have primacy in the school setting."

Other issues that ASFSA and its members will be advocating include: creation of a comprehensive, coordinated nutrition education program in schools; continuation and expansion of the International School Lunch Program; a revision of the cost-determination processes for the After School Snack Program; and an extension of current law for the calculation of "bonus commodities" in the National School Lunch Program.

Conference sessions, which will be open to the media, will include a question-and-answer session with four key USDA officials, a review of the recent School Nutrition Dietary Assessment (SNDA II) study, a panel discussion on the International School Lunch Program, and a report on the findings in the USDA's report to Congress on the state of nutrition education programs.

Media interested in covering the 2001 ASFSA Legislative Action Conference should contact Joe Haas at (703) 739-3900, ext. 122, or by e-mail at jhaas@asfsa.org. Information on the conference, including a detailed schedule of events and copies of the 2001 Legislative Issue Paper and ASFSA's recent statement on competitive foods can be found online at www.asfsa.org.

ASFSA is a national, non-profit professional organization representing more than 58,000 members who provide high-quality, low-cost meals to students across the country. Founded in 1946, ASFSA is the only association devoted exclusively to protecting and enhancing children's health and well-being through school meals and sound nutrition education.

CONTACT: American School Food Service Association, Alexandria
         Joseph Haas
         (703) 739-3900, ext. 122