Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2006

SB 206: Special Subcommittee to Study Childhood Obesity

June 14, 2006

The Special Subcommittee on Childhood Obesity held its final required meeting on June 14, 2006, with Senator John Edwards, the bill's patron, and other interested parties attending. The subcommittee invited several representatives of local school divisions to give their perspectives on childhood obesity related issues and some participated by teleconference, including Bill Hall, Director of Food Services for Accomack County Schools, Penny McConnell, Director of Food and Nutrition Services for Fairfax County Schools, Michael Tisdale, Director of Administrative Services for Lunenburg County Schools, and Daphne Stickley, Food Service Supervisor for Rockbridge County Schools.

Local School Perspective

Alicia Cost, School Nutrition Supervisor for Charlottesville City Schools, and Peggy H. Lee, Director of School Nutrition Services for Chesapeake City Schools gave their perspectives on childhood obesity in the public schools, while other representatives participated via telephone conference. The group addressed many of the problems that local public schools share.

Due to national and state academic standards, class scheduling, and the large number of students who must be served in school cafeterias in a short period of time, many students, especially in the high schools, are left with little time to eat lunch. Participants agreed that this was a significant problem and solutions should be explored.

Participants also emphasized the business side of school nutrition services, finding it difficult to balance the nutritional needs of students with the schools' need to raise needed funds. School divisions often turn to outside sales and catering in order to survive. The removal of popular but less healthy menu items, like french fries, often cause students to go elsewhere for lunches.

Some school divisions have tried new strategies to interest students in healthier foods, such as
hosting food tastings and having students sample and recommend foods that they would like to include as cafeteria offerings. Participants agreed that including healthier menus is difficult due to cost and lack of interest.

Nearly all of the participants made positive comments about the new federally mandated local wellness policy and have begun to develop division programs based on the Governor's Nutrition and Physical Activity Scorecard, which is part of the Healthy Virginians Program.

Guest Speakers
Lynne Fellin - Acting Director of School Nutrition Programs, Department of Education

Ms. Fellin discussed funding for nutrition programs and explained that public schools receive both federal and state money. Schools are federally reimbursed at a set rate for each meal, breakfast or lunch, which is actually served to a student. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports, however, that the true cost of meals is higher than the reimbursement rate. The public schools also receive a set amount of state funds based on 1980 revenues, which means the state reimbursement rate has not changed in over twenty years. Since federal and state funding are insufficient, many school divisions are forced to raise additional funds for school lunches through a la carte sales, or outside catering. Board of Education regulations forbid the sale of any competing foods, meaning anything other than the official school lunch or school breakfast, during meal times. However, there are no restrictions or nutritional limitations on foods sold during other times of the day.

Ms. Fellin also addressed the lack of time for an adequate lunch, particularly in high school, when students may choose to take an elective course rather than a lunch period. Virginia currently has no required minimum time for lunch periods.

James Firebaugh - Director of Middle and High School Instruction for the Department of Education

Mr. Firebaugh spoke about physical education requirements in the Commonwealth and explained that there is a great deal of flexibility in current requirements, consequently, the amount of daily activity most students receive is unknown. The 2006 changes to the Standards of Accreditation will require a physical education program for elementary and middle school students with guidelines by the Board of Education. The new standards also continue to require two years of physical education in high school.

Subcommittee staff, Nikki Seeds and Jessica Eades of DLS, gave a brief overview of obesity-related legislation passed in other states, which included:

  • Limiting the types of foods that can be sold in public schools (aside from the official school meal programs).
  • Increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Prescribing weekly physical education requirements.
  • Reporting to parents the body mass index of students.


The special subcommittee members agreed to review the information they had received during their two meetings and make recommendations to the full Senate Education and Health Committee.

The Hon. Mary Margaret Whipple

For information, contact:
Jessica Eades, Nikki Seeds, and Norma Szakal, DLS Staff

Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2006

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