Healthy kids learn better, and they also grow up to be healthier, happier, more productive adults. Upstream Public Health believes Oregon should work with our K-12 public schools to ensure Oregon’s youth have their best chance of success in school and in life.
Why It Matters
The present generation of school children is the first generation in American history to have shorter projected lifespans than their parents. Those projections are the result of diabetes and the other chronic diseases associated with diet and weight.
What We’re Doing
In 2014-15, Upstream is spearheading a campaign to remove junk food marketing from Oregon's public schools.
We have been working since 2003 to make schools healthier, and have some big wins -- especially taking junk food out of schools, and getting support and even funding for Farm to School and School Garden programs. But junk food and fast food companies are still allowed to *market* foods in schools that they cannot sell there, from soda to pizza to cookie dough. We think that is wrong, we think it's undermining our efforts to support healthier schools and healthier students, and we want to change it.
Here are some of the many ways that corporations market to kids at schools:
- Vending machine labeling (vending machines at schools are allowed to sell water, juices, some energy drinks, and diet sodas, but not “regular” sodas. However, the machines can still be plastered with advertising for the “regular” version of sodas (e.g. red regular Coke)
- Scoreboards and other school signage
- Benefit nights at restaurants
- Donated classroom materials, such as math or reading worksheets (younger grades)
- Book covers
- Pizza Hut “Bucks for Books” programs
- Box Tops for Education / Labels for Education
- Fundraiser sale items: cookie dough, pizza, etc.
- Branded disposable cups in cafeterias or sports
- Special event signage (banners)
- Athletic uniforms or special event t-shirts
- Channel One TV
- “Good Job” stickers with corporate logos
- Food coupons as discretionary awards from staff
What You Can Do
To get involved, and to add your voice of support, please e-mail Kasandra,. If you have kids in school, or if you work in school, please share an example or a story of marketing that you or your kid(s) experienced through their school.
Our Successes So Far
In 2007, Upstream helped pass HB 2650, taking junk food out of Oregon school cafeterias and vending machines. In 2014, similar standards are finally being adopted nationally.
Upstream has been working to promote and expand Farm to School programs in Oregon since 2006; see Food & Nutrition. Upstream works to promote, and when necessary fight to preserve, existing programs and policies. In the 2012 legislative session, we worked hard to defeat HB 4104, which would have reduced school district’s obligation to report on their compliance with certain physical education and nutrition requirements.
In 2012, Upstream and the Healthy Kids Learn Better coalition were very involved in the education reform efforts headed by Governor John Kitzhaber. The Oregon Education Investment Board was given the challenge of integrating the education system from birth through college, and improving overall outcomes.
We are proud to report that we were successful in getting “attendance” included as a measure of health in the new “achievement compacts” for K- 12 school districts. This will appear as one of the key measures that school districts track, along with test scores and graduation rates. (Oregon has one of the highest chronic absenteeism rates in the nation with 22%, nearly 1 in 4 children, in K-12 chronically absent each year. Chronic Absenteeism is a predictor of dropping out; so it is not suprising that 1 in 3 Oregon high school students do not graduate. We are working with partners to better understand the health reasons behind chronic absenteeism such as hunger, asthma, lack of health care access, and fear of bullying. For more information on this issue, please see Attendance Works and a recent local briefing paper about the issue in Oregon here.)
Upstream is now chairing the Healthy Kids Learn Better, a statewide coalition of organizations and individuals working collectively to promote policies and programs that will reduce physical, social, and emotional barriers to learning. The goal of the coalition is to build supportive funding, leadership, and policies on the connections between health and education in order to keep kids safe, healthy, and ready to learn. Upstream helps guide the coalition as a member of the steering committee, along with representatives from some of our partner organizations: Oregon Public Health Institute, American Heart Association, OEA Choice Trust, Oregon Medical Association, Tobacco Free Coalition of Oregon, and Oregon School Based Health Care Network.