R.I. lawmakers pass bill to ban advertising unhealthy foods on school property

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Lawmakers in Rhode Island passed legislation that will forbid advertising unhealthy foods and drinks on school property.

The House of Representatives voted Thursday to pass the bill. The Senate has passed an identical bill, but each chamber must pass the other’s version before the measure can head to the governor.

Democratic Rep. Joseph McNamara said the measure builds on legislation passed in 2006, which required public schools to phase-out unhealthy drinks and snacks.

“The next step, which is long overdue, is to promote healthy eating habits,” McNamara said in a statement. “That cannot be done when children are bombarded all day long with advertisements for junk food.”

The bill would prohibit advertising for food and drink products that don’t meet the minimum health standards laid out by the federal Department of Agriculture. It would extend to school-related property such as athletic fields, parking lots and school buses.

Megan Geoghegan, spokeswoman for the Rhode Island Department of Education, said the agency generally is supportive of the bill’s intent. “If you can’t serve it in the school, then you can’t advertise it,” she said.

But Geoghegan said the department isn’t aware of any schools that raised concerns about advertising.

“We haven’t gotten any questions about it from districts,” she said.

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