The battle with obesity in the United States today is prompting Washington’s involvement in the issue. As many people know, the current First Lady Michelle Obama is extremely active in promoting healthy living. The country is looking for solutions to reduce obesity rates, particularly in children. Critics fault the vending machines and the unhealthy food choices they often carry as a component in rising childhood obesity cases. In addition, school nutrition programs are being scrutinized and therefore revamped in order to provide more nutritious and healthy food options for children.
In the past, the food and beverage industry rejected efforts to limit the amount of junk food that schools sell out of concerns for falling profit at these institutions. Although this is the case, as the Washington Post suggests, “it is expected that the food and beverage industry will begin to actively support healthy food choice initiatives in schools because a tangible market exists for many companies.” Coca-Cola is a key example because Coca-Cola has other divisions that produce other products outside of Coke, such as Dasani water. If a school shifted the products it carried in its vending machines to be healthier, Coca-Cola would still be a competitor.
In addition, various states have begun fighting childhood obesity through regulations on what types of foods may be sold at the schools. Rather than fighting impending menu changes at schools from state to state, the industry is looking to partner and influence a national policy, instead of having to face opposing state rules. The food and beverage industry has already enlisted a mild public relations campaign, announcing its’ support “that childhood obesity is a complex problem that will take comprehensive solutions. And our industry is stepping up to do our part.”
Although this is the case, it remains to be seen how school nutrition programs will change over the next years as some supporters advocate for change and discretion of menus on the local levels, while others, more specifically the food and beverage industry, encourage a national, uniform policy. It is anticipated that the movement to reform lunch menus and vending machines at schools will begin later this summer, particularly as Congress has bills in both houses mandating new food standards for schools.