Saturday, December 15, 2007

Rhode Islanders Against Harkin's Farm Amendment

*UPDATE: The vote has NOT been taken yet.

This note was rec'd vis a local Islander activist for Newport schools & improving school lunches:

Subject: Senator Reed Needs to hear from anyone NOT in support of Harkin's amendment by today!

" PLEASE send a note to Senator Reed if you are not in support of the State Pre-emption of the Harkin/Murkowski amendment or to sign onto the attached Kids First letter. It appears that the vote to attach the Harkin amendment to the Farm Bill could happen as early as tomorrow, Dec. 12.

Senator Reed is prepared to vote that RI is not in support of State Pre-emption, nor the allowance of sports drinks and artificial sweetened beverages in RI high schools. However, he needs to hear from all who have the same opinion and all who support him in that in that vote.

Send notes to with your signature at the bottom or just send a note that you do not support the State Pre-emption clause of the Harkin/Murkowski amendment."

"The RI Department of Health and RI Department of Environmental Management, Division of Agriculture are NOT in support of the amendment as it is currently written and are sending letters. Please, if you can send a note from yourself or for your organization, Senator Reed needs to and wants to hear from you tonight or tomorrow."

Kids First Letter:

November 8, 2007

The Honorable Jack Reed 1000 Chapel View Boulevard, Suite 290 Cranston, RI 02920

Dear Senator Reed,

We asked you to become a co-sponsor for Senator Harkin’s Bill S771 that originally directed USDA to set standards for foods that compete with the Federal School Meals Programs and you did. The existing standards are out of date and quite meaningless, as we can all see given the competitive junk foods and sugary beverages, etc. that had been available in schools for some time.

S 771 has since changed to include specific nutrition criteria as opposed to letting USDA formulate the criteria and most likely formulate it based on the Institute of Medicine Science-Based Recommendations that were released this year. I and Kids First can no longer support this Bill. This Bill contains a State Preemption Clause and its nutrition criteria is weaker than RI State Laws, as enacted in 2006 and 2007 and that will go into full effect on January 1, 2008.

The Bill, although it has some very good criteria that RI is working towards in regards to sodium content, has the following two significant differences from our Law that sets RI back at least two to three years. The differences are as follows:
S771 allows artificially sweetened beverages and sports drinks in high schools; RI Law rids all RI schools of these beverages as of January 1, 2008.
Has a sugar allowance in snack foods of 35% sugar by weight while RI Law specifies 25% sugar by weight or 7 grams per ounce.

The artificially sweetened and sports/energy drink allowances in the Harkin Bill is of GREATEST concern for the following reasons:
These Harkin Bill components/clauses are driven by for-profit industry groups and we believe that to be too potentially damaging for our children in our schools, not to mention unconscionable in regards to law-making that directly impacts our nation’s school children in school.
Opening the door to artificially sweetened beverages and energy /sports drinks opens the door to a wealth of energy boosting and super-fortified beverages that will be allowable in our high schools under this Law. Harkin’s Law DOES NOT address caffeine and other energy boosters, NOR does it address super fortification; therefore drinks with these ingredients will be allowed in our RI high schools. Drinks with these ingredients have no real nutritional value nor have any place in our children’s diets, as supported by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
The beverage industry re-gains its place in our schools for highly branded and differentiated products, thus continues to have the right to market to our children in school everyday and has the ability to potentially hook our children on these products for life!
In RI, our high schools have accepted that they need to unhook themselves from the funding streams of the big beverage companies, except for water, milk, and 100% juice (in 12 ounce or less). However, if Harkin’s Bill is passed, the beverage companies will be allowed, by federal law and superseding our voided State Law, back into our schools to negotiate and re-hook our schools on these funding streams created by selling products to our children that they do not need to be consuming.

I, as well as every staff member of Kids First, an organization that works in very close partnership with RI Departments of Education, Health, Environmental Management, Division of Agriculture, the RI General Assembly and all 36 RI school districts, plead with you to stand up for RI and support that we DO NOT WANT to be pre-empted by the Harkins Bill. We do not want the beverages, nor the sugary snacks that this bill supports and that our RI Law does not support back in our schools!! The advocates for this Bill are misrepresenting Rhode Island’s nutritional standards and achievements in all of its schools and we need you to help us!


Dorothy A. Brayley
Executive Director

"We guide communities to improve the nutritional & physical wellbeing of children"

Dorothy Brayley, Executive Director
Kids First
5 Richmond Square
Providence, RI 02906
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