Friday May 11, 2012

BOSTON (AP) -- Cupcakes, brownies and other baked goodies will be spared the chopping block at Massachusetts schools after Gov. Deval Patrick backed down from planned regulations to prohibit the sale of the treats at bake sales during school hours.

"Nobody is interested in banning bake sales," Patrick told reporters Thursday. "We are interested in student nutrition."

The regulations, which had been set to take effect Aug. 1, were approved by state health officials charged with overseeing a new school nutrition law aimed in part at battling childhood obesity.

The ban would have prohibited the sale of sweets in schools during the school day and 30 minutes before and after the start of classes. But parents and some school officials panned the ban, saying it would make it harder to raise needed cash to help pay for activities at the schools.

The regulations also caused a stir at the Statehouse.

Republican state Rep. Brad Hill, who sponsored an amendment in the Massa chusetts House to lift the ban, said schools should be allowed to make their own decision on when to hold bake sales.

Some school nutrition experts said they supported the ban. They said furthering the health of students by limiting their access to unhealthy foods at school should be a priority, especially given rising obesity levels among children.

The House adopted the amendment Wednesday striking down the prohibition. The Senate followed suit on Thursday.


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Patrick said he would sign the measure lifting the ban, even as he defended public health officials who he said were just trying to follow the intent of the nutrition bill approved by lawmakers.

But the Department of Public Health made it clear that legislative action to lift the regulation wouldn’t be necessary.

Public Health Commissioner John Auerbach said that at Patrick’s direction the department will reverse the ban before its set to take effect. Auerbach said the ban will stay in effect, however, for goodies sold at school cafeterias during the school day.

"The school nutrition standards have always been about reducing childhood obesity in Massachusetts and protecting our kids from the serious long-term health impacts that obesity can cause," Auerbach said Thursday. "We hope to return the focus to how we can work together to make our schools healthy environments."

Patrick signed the 2010 bill designed to encourage the state’s elementary and high schools to offer healthier food choices for their students. The legislation requires schools to provide fruit and vegetable snack options and was designed to limit sugary sodas and sweet snacks along with potato chips and other vending machine offerings.