180273 Maine's approach to reduce junk-food marketing in schools

Wednesday, October 29, 2008: 9:00 AM

Karen O'Rourke, MPH , Maine Harvard Prevention Research Center, Maine Center for Public Health, Augusta, ME
Like the rest of the county, the state of Maine is experiencing a crisis of childhood obesity. Maine children have the highest rate of obesity among children in New England with more than a third overweight or obese. Because of rural demography, low socioeconomic status, long winters and sparse infrastructure, school based interventions offer an ideal existing infrastructure to impact risk factors.

Food advertising affects children's food choices, food purchase requests, diets and health and studies show that labeling and signage on school campuses affect students' food selections at school. Many foods and beverages of poor nutritional quality are marketed in schools and a recent national survey found that 67% of schools have advertising for foods that are high in fat and/or sugar. Additionally, children may be uniquely vulnerable to marketing of low nutrition foods because they lack decision-making skills and maturity. A Maine state-wide public opinion poll on obesity demonstrated broad support for an advertising ban in schools. Furthermore, recent data from a Food Service Directors Survey found ads for soft drinks, for example, present in Maine school cafeterias, on vending machines, elsewhere in the school building and on school grounds.

In the fall of 2003, the Commission to Study Public Health was established by the legislature to study obesity. From that Commission, 28 recommendations for legislation were developed, including a proposed ban on advertising of junk food on school grounds. In 2007, the ban on advertising in schools was overwhelmingly passed by the legislature. The law states that brand-specific advertising of food or beverages is prohibited in school buildings or on school grounds except for food and beverages meeting standards for sale or distribution on school grounds in accordance the federal “foods of minimal nutritional value” standard for advertising. Maine currently requires schools to meet this standard 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The advertising ban went into effect in September 2007 and there are few, if any, similar state laws.

This presentation will provide an overview of Maine's law. In addition, key steps and challenges of the effort to pass the law will be described. The presenter will also discuss implementation challenges and possible next steps.

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe challenges and key steps to creating state policy and to reduce marketing of low-nutrition foods in schools

Keywords: Nutrition, Children and Adolescents

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have no commercial interest in the content and will present objective information based on 25 years of public health practice.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.