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Despite rules, regulations, and policies, junk food marketing can make it’s way into schools. This issue became an problem in Maine when a study found that the marketing restrictions were not being completely followed.
Maine’s law prohibits “brand-specific advertising of certain unhealthy foods and beverages in schools,” specifically foods that are not allowed to be sold in school. By doing this Maine hopes to keep unhealthy food or junk food brands out of sight of students, since they are already not allowed to purchase these foods during the school day. The foods not allowed to be served during the school day are considered “Foods of Minimum Nutritional Value,” including soda, water ices, chewing gum, candies, and any food containing less than five percent of the Reference Daily Intake for each of eight specified nutrients per 100 calories or serving.
Advertising of specific brands is prohibited at any time on school grounds, before and after school, anywhere in school cafeterias including posters and paper products, faculty lounges, in school stores, and in any athletic facilities including locker rooms, scoreboards, sports bags, and athletic equipment.
Even though this law has been in place since 2007, schools have not been following the ban of advertising. Michele Polacsek, an associate professor of public health at the University of New England, led a study to examine the use of advertising and marketing in Maine schools. Her study found that 85% of the twenty schools examined still contained posters and signs for junk food. “Schools violating the law had an average of nearly a dozen of the promotions, with many of the ads springing up far beyond the cafeteria doors, the study found.” Coke and Pepsi products were the most common advertised brand in the offending schools.
Through this study it is being discovered that schools are not abiding to the laws and need to self regulate themselves more closely. The schools themselves did not feel that they had the means to do so and needed more support, “Schools participating in the study overwhelmingly supported limiting students’ exposure to ads for unhealthy foods, but the majority wanted more help to meet the law’s requirements. Many administrators didn’t even know about the ban.”
Polacsek spoke at a press release about the importance of the study and the great importance of keeping marketing out of all schools, ““During the schoolday, kids are a captive audience, and they shouldn’t be bombarded with ads for junk foods.” The study results were released in 2012, more information can be found in this coverage of the study and below in the complete study of the marketing ban in Maine.
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