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Nutrition advocates to schools: shape up.

Soda is out, but students are exercising less. Junk food is being scrutinized, but recess is still iffy. Childhood obesity rates are climbing and schools, say advocates, must monitor what calories students are taking in and burning up.

Several new reports, a major announcement by the country's largest cola companies and a bold move by a New England state have put school nutrition issues back in the spotlight.

In May, the nation's largest beverage distributors agreed to halt the sale of soda in school vending machines and cafeterias. At the same time, Connecticut took it one step further and became the first state in the nation to ban the sale of soda, diet soda and sports drinks in all of its K-12 schools.

But some new reports say schools still have much work to do making sure students are staying in shape.

Shape of the Nation by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education and Calories In, Calories Out: Food and Exercise in Public Elementary Schools found that students still have access to junk food and are not getting enough time for physical education during the school day.

"Even though a majority of states mandate physical education, most do not require specific amounts of instruction time and about half allow exemptions, waivers and/or substitutions," according to Shape of the Nation.

The Calories In, Calories Out report, by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics, found that while nearly all public elementary schools reported that they scheduled physical education, only 17 percent to 22 percent actually provided daily classes. The report also found 15 percent of public elementary schools sold candy and 5 percent sold snack food in vending machines.

American Heart Association President Robert H. Eckel, says while schools have made progress, there's more to do. "We need to keep upping the ante here." The AHA and NASPE are calling for mandatory physical education for all students.

Physical Education

* Only 11 states mandate a certain amount of minutes per week for physical education for elementary students. seven states do so for middle school and 10 do so for high school students.

* Of the 11 states that do mandate minutes per week, only Louisiana and New Jersey meet the national recommendation of 150 or more minutes per week.

* Only Illinois and Massachusetts require physical education in every grade, New Jersey and Rhode Island require it in grades 1-12.

* 18 states grant exemptions or waivers for districts regarding physical education time or credit.

Source: Shape of the Nation
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Title Annotation:junk food and sodas banned in schools
Author:Silverman, Fran
Publication:District Administration
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2006
Words:422
Previous Article:Sports and civics.
Next Article:Hope for low-performing high schools.
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