Mich. Republicans fight school junk food limits

Gary Heinlein and Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — Senate majority Republicans continued their push against federal school junk food regulations Tuesday by moving out of committee a bill to permit fund-raising sales of candy, pop and doughnuts.

The legislation, approved without discussion by the Senate Education Committee on a 5-0 vote, goes to the full Senate, where the GOP has a 27-11 majority.

Senate Bill 139, sponsored by Sen. Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton Township, requires the state Department of Education to set rules creating an upper limit on the number of fundraisers allowed during school hours. But the limit can’t be lower than three per week.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture this year started banning sales of snack foods that don’t meet its “Smart Snacks” nutritional standards. It’s part of the federal Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, an offshoot of first lady Michelle Obama’s efforts to get children to eat more nutritious foods.

The USDA says students still can take orders for Girl Scout cookies, Boy Scout popcorn, frozen pizzas and cookie dough, but the food has to be consumed at home or after school.

The federal law allowed states to set policies loosening the restrictions on daytime sales and consumption of junk food, but the Michigan Department of Education opted to adopt the USDA guidelines.

“(I)n my reading of the Constitution . . . I don’t see any authority in telling our kids what they should and should not eat,” Colbeck argued in a committee hearing a week ago. He had students from Canton and Ionia schools testify in favor of his bill.

“Senators, these are the real-life impacts that we are seeing from the national school lunch act,” 17-year-old Ionia High School senior William Talbot told the committee a week ago. “Alternative fundraisers, they do not work because students don’t want to buy this memorabilia they said we could sell in place of Krispy Kremes. They want the Krispy Kremes.”