The General Assembly today advanced Assemblyman Parker Space’s Smarter Lunchroom Act to combat obesity by promoting healthy food choices in school cafeterias.

“This isn’t about forcing kids to eat ‘good food’ and banning fattening foods from the cafeteria,” said Space (R—Sussex, Warren, Morris). “We want to present healthy options and teach kids to make nutritious decisions when they go through the lunch line. If kids learn to eat healthy when they’re young, it will help them live more fulfilling and rewarding lives, and avoid the diet-related illnesses that plague American society.”

The legislation embraces the Smarter Lunchroom movement founded by researchers at the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs.

“Our society has a problem with poor food choices, and research indicates it will only get worse in the future,” said Space, adding that almost 25 percent of New Jersey children from age 10 to 17 are overweight. “Getting to students early and teaching them healthy habits is a simple way to change the trend and save lives.”

The bill requires the Education Department to implement smarter lunchroom strategies in schools, including prominently placing fruit and other nutritious foods near the cash register, and putting healthy lunch options first in the serving lines and on the menu.

“This is an opportunity to introduce students to delicious Jersey Fresh fruits and vegetables grown by our local farmers,” said Space, who has sponsored numerous bills encouraging schools to serve produce harvested nearby.