Trans fat ban in schools: Senator Lucia Guzman on nation's toughest bill

This afternoon at the Colorado state house, the agriculture, natural resources and energy committee will consider what's being characterized as the nation's toughest ban of trans fat at schools.

Senator Lucia Guzman is surprised by all the attention the measure has received to date, in part because, to her, it's a no-brainer.

"So many schools have already moved in that direction," says Guzman, who is cosponsoring Senate Bill 68 with Representative Tom Massey. "But any time we try to strengthen or put mandates on institutions, there's always controversy."

The proposal would not only ban trans fats in school lunches, but also for breakfasts and items served in after-school care settings -- restrictions that go beyond similar laws already enacted in states such as California and Delaware. In Guzman's view, broadening the scope is important.

"There are many before-school and after-school functions sponsored by the schools themselves," she points out. "Like kaleidoscope programs that keep kids in a safe environment until their parents can pick them up at five or six. And those are the kinds of functions where we're saying schools must still provide healthy options."

Other aspects of the bill were cited in a Denver Post editorial opposing it. The piece, published January 20, argued that SB-68 would effectively ban school bake sales and the like, which the Post authors considered absurd.

Now, however, an amendment to the measure has been written to address such concerns. "We've been working with some of the stakeholders, and they were worried about fundraisers where kids or families bake things to sell to buy T-shirts for the volleyball team or things like that," Guzman notes. "So we've taken out fundraiser-types of things. The schools didn't feel like they could monitor that. You can't go to each person's house and make them sign a pledge that they're absolutely not sneaking in trans fat.

"If you're baking something, or if a parent is bringing in a birthday cake for one of the children, we're not going to outlaw that," she adds.

Nonetheless, Guzman feels that expanding to mornings and afternoons is necessary. "Our intent is to equalize our school districts, so we can give all kids the opportunity to have nutritious options at their schools. During the school week, they take most of their meals and food within the period of time when they're on that location. And we want to make sure the food supplied by schools is healthy."

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More from our Politics archive: "Protect the balls, not just the head: Lawmaker backs amendment requiring boys riding bikes to wear crush resistant athletic cups."

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