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UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of ten of America's presidencies and who has edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review, which has been on the web since 1995, is now published from Freeport, Maine. We get over 5 million article visits a year. See prorev.com for full contents of our site

February 24, 2010

ENTROPY UPDATE: NYC SCHOOL PANEL MAY APPROVE POP TARTS, BANS BROWNIES AND ZUCCHINI BREAD

NY TIMES - Nine months after effectively banning most fund-raising food sales in city schools, a city panel will vote Wednesday on an amended regulation that will allow student groups to sell items like Pop-Tarts and Doritos during the school day, but not brownies, zucchini bread or anything else homemade.

The new regulation is meant as a compromise between the city's concerns about childhood obesity - which they cite as the reason for the restrictions - and the fund-raising needs of student and parent groups, some of which are struggling amid difficult economic times, especially after losing one of their most lucrative sources of revenue.

Under the new rules, students may sell fresh fruits and vegetables, or one of 27 specific packaged items that have been approved for sales in city vending machines, between the start of school and 6 p.m. on weekdays. The same goes for parent groups, except for an exception carved out for one no-brownies-barred Parent Teacher Association bake sale during the school day per month.

No homemade or unpackaged items are on the list of "approved" foods because "it's impossible to know what the content is, or what the portion size is," said Kathleen Grimm, the deputy chancellor for infrastructure and portfolio planning, who oversees the regulation.

Students opposed to the restrictions, however, said they didn't see how the new rules were much better.

"It's unrealistic to say a young adult can't make a decision about whether they can eat something," said David Greenblatt, 18, a senior at the High School of American Studies at Lehman College. "Soon I'll be in college, and I won't have Mommy or Daddy or Chancellor Klein sitting right next to me saying, 'Hey David, don't eat that, its too high in calories.'"

To qualify as an approved item, a snack must meet 11 criteria developed by the city. For example, all products must be in marked, single-serving packages with a maximum calorie count of 200. Artificial sweeteners, like Splenda, are banned. Less than 35 percent of the item's total calories may come from either total sugars or fat. Grain-based products must contain at least 2 grams of fiber.

The criteria led some foods not normally thought of as healthy to make the list. For example, approved items include two of the 21 varieties of Frito-Lay Doritos: Cool Ranch Reduced Fat, and Spicy Sweet Chili (1 ounce packages). The Cool Ranch variety contains three food colorings - Red 4D, Blue 1 and Yellow 5 - and two laboratory-produced flavor enhancers - disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate. The criteria don't ban these additives.

In addition, the Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos appear to have only half as much as the required amount of fiber, according to the manufacturer's Web site.

The city has also green-lighted one of 29 types of Kellogg's Pop-Tarts, the Frosted Brown Sugar Cinnamon (1.76 ounces), although the manufacturer's Web site said the item has 210 calories. When asked about this discrepancy, the city sent over a copy of the nutritional facts for a different kind of Pop-Tart, Whole Grain Brown Sugar Cinnamon, which has 200 calories.

Other highlights from the list: Nutri-Grain Cereal Bars (blackberry only); Linden's Cookies (butter crunch, chocolate chip or fudge chip cookies in two cookie packs); and Nature Valley Crunchy Granola Bars (just the Peanut Butter and Oats 'N' Honey varieties). Students and manufacturers can add additional items to the list by submitting their printed nutritional information to the Department of Education for approval.

To purchase food for approved sales, students may go to Costco or other stores to buy items for resale, said Eric Goldstein, the schools' chief executive for food and busing.


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