ALBANY, N.Y. May 8, 2007 - New York State United Teachers today enthusiastically backed Gov. Eliot Spitzer's legislative proposal to help combat childhood obesity by establishing nutritional standards for food and beverages served in schools, requiring more physical education and by stopping the sale of junk food during the school day.
"Students who eat right and exercise stay healthier and do better in school. The governor's proposed legislation would give teachers and their schools needed tools to help children lead healthier, more successful lives," said NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi. "At a time when childhood obesity has unfortunately become epidemic, this is the right proposal at the right time."
Iannuzzi, an elementary school teacher in Central Islip for 34 years, noted that a ban on the sale of junk food and soda during the school day is likely to "help students to maintain their focus on what is most important - learning the curriculum and meeting higher standards - while helping them to avoid weight problems and the accompanying health problems."
NYSUT Executive Vice President Alan B. Lubin said the union also supports the Spitzer administration's plan to require some needier school districts to provide free and reduced-price breakfast programs to go along with subsidized lunch programs. "Providing children with a healthy breakfast will increase children's focus and give them a better start on the school day," Lubin said.
NYSUT Vice President Kathleen Donahue noted that the 585,000-plus member union is already at the forefront of efforts to combat childhood obesity. In 2005, NYSUT launched its 24/7 Let's Go! program, which provides "rewards" - in the form of colorful stickers that can be pasted in a special book - for younger students who eat nutritiously and exercise regularly. Developed by NYSUT's Health Care Professionals Council, the program has been distributed to more than 100,000 children in school districts in every corner of the state, Donahue said. 24/7 Let's Go! has been endorsed by the American Cancer Society. More information is available on the NYSUT Web site at www.nysut.org.
NYSUT, the state's largest union, represents more than 585,000 classroom teachers and other school employees; faculty and other professionals at the state's community colleges; State University of New York and City University of New York; and other education and health professionals. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and AFL-CIO.