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Junk Food Nation: Are Your Kids Really Eating Healthier at School?

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Sure, lunches are healthier, but that doesn't guarantee your kid is eating better at school.

Kids searching for an apple may find that a bag of chips is much easier to come by in some states. After much hoopla about offering healthier options, many U.S. districts still sell junk food at school, says a new report from the Pew Charitable Trusts and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Rules vary widely from state to state. While students in Rhode Island have no access to snacks, half of all students in Idaho can buy all they want, including candy. “There is no nationwide standard for foods sold outside of the lunch line,” explains Lindsey Turner, Ph.D., a health psychologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who has done research on the availability of junk food in U.S. schools. “Some states and local districts have passed laws limiting unhealthy snacks and drinks, but without a national policy, a majority of students can still gobble junk food at school.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which mandated healthier school lunches last fall, is set to implement new standards for “competing foods” sold in vending machines and elsewhere for the start of the 2014 school year. Until then, go to pewhealth.org for the report and see how your kid may spend that snack money.

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