TIME Education

White House Sets New Limits on Junk Food Ads in Schools

Michelle Obama
U.S. First lady Michelle Obama speaks to students at Bell Multicultural High School in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 11, 2013. Carolyn Kaster—AP

Part of First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" initiative

The Obama administration laid out new restrictions on the marketing of junk food and sugary drinks in schools on Tuesday.

The new rules from the White House and the Department of Agriculture prohibit advertisements for unhealthy foods on school campuses during the school day, including sugary drinks that account for 90 percent of such ads in school. An ad for regular Coca-Cola, for example, would be banned from appearing on a scoreboard at a high school football game, though ads for Diet Coke and Dasani water, owned by the same company, would be allowed. Junk food ads like a Coca-Cola scoreboard would be phased out under the new rules and would not have to be replaced overnight.

“The idea here is simple—our classrooms should be healthy places where kids aren’t bombarded with ads for junk food,” First Lady Michelle Obama said in a statement. “Because when parents are working hard to teach their kids healthy habits at home, their work shouldn’t be undone by unhealthy messages at school.”

Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsak will announce the new regulations at a White House event Tuesday. The rules come as part of the first lady’s “Let’s Move” campaign to fight childhood obesity. Industry heavyweights like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are backing the new regulations.

The marketing limits come after new USDA regulations that put a cap on the calorie, fat, sugar and sodium limits on most food items that can be sold in schools.

“The new standards ensure that schools remain a safe place where kids can learn and where the school environment promotes healthy choices,” Vilsack said in a statement.”

In addition to the limits on marketing of junk food in schools, the USDA rules to be announced Tuesday expand programs that feed hungry kids in need, allowing the highest poverty schools to provide free lunches to all students. The White House says that will add up to about nine million kids in 22,000 schools. The rules will also include guidelines for establishing overall wellness policies in schools, inviting parents and the wider school community to help develop standards for nutrition and physical activity.

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