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RI Bill Could Ban Promotion of Del’s, Calamari, and Maybe Even Coffee Milk, at Schools and Events

Sunday, April 17, 2016


Could Del's be shut out of advertising opportunities at schools? Under a new bill that has passed the State Senate, it could be a possibility.

A just-passed piece of legislation by the Rhode Island Senate would ban the advertising and promotion of most of Rhode Island's favorite foods and beverages.  

On Thursday, the Senate approved a bill (S-2673) by Senator Susan Sosnowksi that would forbid the advertising of “unhealthy” foods in schools, as defined under federal guidelines -- and foods such as Del's, local ice cream shops, and even those selling Rhode Island's "state appetizer" (fried calamari, of course), could be shut out from advertising opportunities. 

Foods that are not currently allowed in schools under the federal guidelines, according to the Rhode Island Department of Education, include the following.  

“Del’s Lemonade would be disallowed under all of the programs including snacks because of its high sugar content,” said RIDE spokesperson Elliot Krieger, when asked which foods are currently allowed at schools.  “Most ice cream is disallowed for the same reason but some ice cream that meets the lower sugar requirements can be offered.” 

“Fried foods are not specifically disallowed, however, because of the high fat content, they are not allowed for sale as an a la carte item or snack,” said Krieger. “They can be included as a meal component, however, the meal would have to meet the nutrient requirements overall.”

Sosnowski’s Bill Banning Foods from Advertising

The school advertising legislation, which was approved by the full Senate 32-4 (with two abstaining - see the vote here) would forbid the advertising of food that does not meet the minimum nutritional standards set forth by the United States Department of Agriculture under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. 

“Advertising would be prohibited on any property or facility owned or leased by the school district or school and used at any time for school-related activities, including school buildings, athletic fields, facilities, signs, scoreboards, parking lots, school buses, equipment, vending machines, uniforms, educational material and supplies," says Sosnowski's legislation.

Senator Susan Sosnowski

“The whole point is to send a signal that healthy foods for children and adults is the way to go,” said Sosnowski, who had sponsored the initial legislation in 2006 that required the phase-out of unhealthy drinks and snacks from all public schools in Rhode Island. “If we advertise sugary foods and foods that contribute to obesity, then how serious are we about sending that message?”

Sosnowski, a Democrat who has represented New Shoreham and South Kingstown since first being elected in 1996, said it would be “up to the schools” to determine who met the criteria — and who did not. 

“If the advertiser is selling something that's not healthy foods, that would be the determinant if it could be an advertiser or not," said Sosnowski. "I think it would be up to the individual district to decide, the schools and the school committees." Sosnowski noted that amendments were put into last year's legislation that would grandfather in businesses with existing contracts. 

When asked if she was concerned that the legislation could impact businesses like a Del’s or small businesses looking to advertise, Sosnowski said the businesses could “give in other ways.”  

“The avenue is they can contribute in other ways, if it doesn't work under these guidelines for adverting,” said Sosnowski. “I’m not sure what's going to happen in the House. Look, I can remember when tobacco advertising was curtailed. Kids are young and impressionable.  There's plenty of schools who don't take any type of advertising at all.”


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