I wrote last week about Colorado Governor Hickenlooper’s commitment to improving the overall health of our state’s population, and it’s fitting that he had just signed into law a bill that will ban trans fats in Colorado’s public schools – sort of – starting in the fall of 2013. Colorado Senate Bill 68 will ban trans fats on school premises, except for foods that are part of “a meal program of the United States Department of Agriculture”. The ban also does not apply to food that is distributed via a fundraiser.
So SB68 will apply mainly to “competitive foods” that are sold outside of the USDA National School Lunch Program (which is getting an overhaul too, including a gradually phased-in ban on trans fats). This means that vending machines and any food offered to students by an outside supplier (ie, not the school lunch program “hot lunch”) will have to be trans fat free by September, 2013.
SB68 was introduced in January and signed into law by Governor Hickenlooper on Jun 4th. Obviously it’s not going to solve all of our dietary woes or make a huge dent in the childhood obesity problem. But especially if it’s combined with more time allocated for physical education and recess, it’s a step in the right direction. Although Colorado has been putting a lot of effort into expanding access to health insurance for as many uninsured residents as possible, another big piece of the equation is a focus on reducing overall healthcare costs. We know that as costs climb, so do health insurance premiums. And higher premiums mean that fewer people can afford insurance coverage. So curbing healthcare costs is a big part of expanding access to health insurance. Programs that improve the health of the population should eventually result in lower healthcare costs, and I would say that SB68 can be expected to have at least a small positive effect on the health of the student population in Colorado.