A new study released Monday shows there may be some effectiveness to junk food laws.
According to the journal Pediatrics, although the effects weren't huge, children gained less weight from fifth through eighth grades if they lived in states with strong, consistent laws versus no laws governing snacks available in schools. The study analyzed data on 6,300 students in 40 states.
For several years Horry County Schools has followed a nutritional plan for the food they serve students. When it comes to vending machines, they are mostly in high schools and in some middle schools. They are not allowed in elementary schools.
"The vending machines cannot interfere with the student breakfast or the student lunch serving times. They can be on before school, after school and during breaks that the school designates," says Laura Farmer, Director of Food Services for HCS. "What they're putting into their bodies now is going to affect them in their later years."
The news that limiting kids access to junk food and sugary drinks can lead to lower obesity numbers doesn't surprise Kristi Falk. She's the Director of The Wellness Council for South Carolina. Last September she started Green S.P.A.R.K., a program that promotes healthy eating.
"It just saddens me to walk into an elementary school or a middle school and see children with type 2 diabetes, which used to be an adult only problem, heart disease, high cholesterol. It's heartbreaking, and yes, it absolutely concerns me," she explains.
Green S.P.A.R.K. focuses on students because Falk says it's a lot easier to change the habits of the young, compared to adults.
"I know that I've changed the behavior of some kids. I've heard from parents and grandparents how they've come back home and say we learned this today or we at this snack today and we want to eat healthier. I think small changes will lead to bigger outcomes later," adds Falk. "There has to be some guidelines and there has to be better options available. As a parent if you maybe lead by example that will help as well."
Right now, the program is only in Whittemore Park Middle School, but she hopes to have it available in all of the schools in Horry County.
Faulk says one way she points children in the right direction is having them read the ingredient list on packaged goods.
"I've had kids in the class read the ingredients on a bag of Lay's potato chips and read ingredients on a bag of Doritos. And their eyes just got wide as saucers when they saw the list on the Doritos. They couldn't read more than half of the words," she explains. "The rule of thumb is if you can't pronounce it, it's not food."
The Associated Press contributed to this report