State Representative Kristy Pagan (D-Canton) gave the following speech on the floor of the Michigan House during debate on Senate Bill 139:
“I rise today in opposition of SB 139 — the junk food in schools bill.
“I studied to be a health teacher to better the next generation and improve the lives of young people. I can only hope now as a legislator I am doing the same thing.
“Simply put, this bill undermines the ability of our children to lead healthy, happy lives.
“Rather than being occasional treats, sweet baked goods, such as cookies, cakes, snack cakes, pastries and donuts, have become a real problem in the diets of American children. Sweet baked goods are the third leading source of calories and the fourth leading source of saturated fat in children’s diets.
“The childhood obesity epidemic is on the rise. Today, about one in three American kids and teens are overweight or obese. The prevalence of obesity in children has more than tripled from 1971 to 2011. With good reason, childhood obesity is now the No. 1 health concern among parents in the United States, topping drug abuse and smoking.
“Among children today, obesity is causing a broad range of health problems that previously weren’t seen until adulthood. These include high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and elevated blood cholesterol levels. There are also psychological effects: Obese children are more prone to low self-esteem, negative body image and depression.
“The Surgeon General of the United States even has stated that, ‘Because of the increasing rates of obesity, unhealthy eating habits and physical inactivity, we may see the first generation that will be less healthy and have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.’
“Empowering children to make healthy choices at a young age and forming healthy habits should be a responsibility we prioritize. Today, we only require half a credit of health education in high school, with merely a few weeks of nutrition education included in these lessons. If we truly are committed to ensuring that our children are set up for success, we must also help shape them into well-rounded, productive adults. We know that what children eat has a direct relationship to their performance in school, behavioral issues and even learning disabilities. That’s why we should promote nutritious food choices during school hours, not increase the availability of unhealthy foods.
“It is our responsibility to take public health seriously as a matter of quality of life, preventative health and disease prevention. We know in the long run that the more we can prevent disease and promote health, the cost of health care goes down and our lifespan increases.
“So given the negative impact junk food has on our kids, why sell it during school hours? Some argue that lifting the minimum nutritional standards during school hours could make up for lost school revenue or provide additional funding for sports or extracurricular activities. I disagree with this argument on its face, because a few dollars raised from bake sales, no matter how frequent, cannot possibly generate significant revenue. Furthermore, it is unethical to disregard the health of our kids in order to fund our schools. Instead of leaving it up to local schools to pump our kids full of junk food to raise money, this legislative body should prioritize fully funding our schools, not fattening our children in the name of freedom.
“When you look at who is supporting this bills, it’s truly industry vs. our kids. I urge my colleagues to do the right thing and stand up for children’s health by voting no on SB 139.”