News from the
Assembly Task Force on
Food, Farm and Nutrition Policy
share their
of a healthy
school lunch.

Felix W. Ortiz, Chair Sheldon Silver, Speaker Summer 2004

Task Force Legislation

The Task Force develops bills on various food policy issues such as food processing and food safety, dietary supplements and diet program disclosure, farm products in schools and excess school food donations. The following bills are some of the highlights from this past year. For more information about all of our legislation, please visit the Task Force web page at the Assembly website or contact us directly for a bill list.

New Laws

Chapter 604 of the Laws of 2003 — Childhood Obesity Prevention Program. The program will develop media nutrition and physical activity promotion campaigns; implement school and community-based programs to improve nutrition and increase physical activity; coordinate obesity prevention strategies in government nutrition and recreation programs; sponsor conferences on solutions to childhood obesity; provide training to medical professionals; and, track the prevalence of the problem in the State.

Chapter 114 of the Laws of 2004 — Comprehensive Care Centers for Eating Disorders (see article below)

Passed Assembly and Senate

A.2652/S.6204 — The School Farm Product Purchasing bill would update and clarify the provisions found in the General Municipal Law allowing schools to purchase foods directly from local farmers without bidding requirements. The proposed changes will make it easier for interested schools and farmers to achieve the goals of the Farm-to-School Law. The bill will be sent to the Governor for consideration.

New Bills

A.8711 (Ortiz) — Provides for required instruction in physical education in elementary and secondary schools.

A.9145 (Ortiz) — Imposes additional taxes on certain food and drink items, and imposes a tax on video games, commercials, and movies and creates the Childhood Obesity Prevention Program Fund.

A.9176 (Ortiz) — Requires a risk analysis for diabetes and if necessary a test for diabetes for all children admitted to public schools and periodically, thereafter.

A.9773 (Ortiz) — Requires food allergen and gluten labeling on packaged foods.

A.9910 (Ortiz) — Prohibits the sale of steroid hormone precursor dietary supplements.

A.11093> (Ortiz) — Authorizes certain students to carry epinephrine auto-injectors in schools.

Message From the Chair

Dear Friends:

During the last year, we have been working hard to craft food policy solutions to the problems facing New York children and farmers and food programs. First and foremost we were successful in winning approval of our new law creating a Childhood Obesity Prevention Program in the NYS Department of Health (DOH). I want to thank my co-sponsor Senator Mary Lou Rath and all of the physicians, parents, nutritionists, nurses, foodservice directors, teachers, physical educators, the Heart, Cancer, Diabetes, and Kidney Associations, and the food industry members who supported this effort.

Passing this legislation is just the first step. We also began the fight to adequately fund this program. Many of you are supporting my request to secure a budget addition of $1 million for obesity prevention activities. Billions are spent on health care and billions are spent on advertising food; I think the State can afford this modest request of $1 million to help reverse the epidemic. I have also introduced legislation, A.9145, to provide a more substantial and stable source of revenue to fund this effort.

Legislation and budgets are not the only weapons in the fight against obesity. With your help in bringing the obesity crisis to the forefront of public attention, the food industry has begun to respond with healthier choices in packaged food and restaurant meals. This is a good sign but we still need improvements in school vending choices, and nutrition information at chain foodservice establishments. We will continue our fight for legislation to address those concerns.

In addition to obesity initiatives, we recently passed legislation to update, and streamline, a law that helps schools buy directly from farmers. There are a number of you working hard to increase school purchases of local farm goods and, if this legislation is signed into law, it would complement our Farm-to-School Law passed two years ago. I am also seeking funding to support Farm-to-School projects.

We also need to work on food policy issues at the federal level. This year I will be serving as the President-Elect of the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators. Here in Albany we sponsored resolutions passed by the Assembly in support of federal proposals to increase the number of free school meals and reform the immigrant agricultural worker programs.

As always, my Task Force will continue to sponsor legislation, advocate for budget increases, and raise public awareness on a wide range of issues from expanding access to Food Stamps to expanded physical education and diabetes screening at school. I welcome your new ideas, advocacy and hard work on behalf of our children, our schools, our farms and other businesses, and our communities. I will continue to bring my passion and commitment to addressing the food policy needs of our State.

Felix Ortiz

Comprehensive Treatment of
Eating Disorders

Families and caregivers from Long Island, NYC and Syracuse join Assemblyman Ortiz to push for Eating Disorders legislation.
Although our nation has an epidemic of obesity, there are also those at the other end of the spectrum suffering from anorexia and other eating disorders. We have to be careful in our efforts to encourage weight loss that we don’t encourage an overemphasis on physical appearance that can lead to eating disorders. The prevalence of these deadly conditions is increasing and, unfortunately, the types of treatment services best suited for eating disorders are lacking in New York. Assemblyman Ortiz successfully sponsored a new law, Chapter 114 of the Laws of 2004, to help address this problem.

An estimated 5,000,000 to 10,000,000 women and girls and 1,000,000 men and boys in the United States suffer from eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder, as well as eating disorders that are not otherwise defined. This problem seems to be getting worse and not just among wealthy, suburban teenage girls but among men, older women, Hispanics, and other inner-city populations. Eating disorders can be fatal; anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of all psychiatric disorders. A young woman with anorexia is 12 times more likely to die than other women her age. Many victims and families hide the disorder and quietly suffer the consequences. These conditions are only recently getting the attention they need.

The new law will have the State Department of Health designate and fund the development of comprehensive care centers or networks across the State that would provide services and treatments from the initial screening and referral to in-patient residential care through follow-up care and outpatient counseling. It would also require insurers to cover treatments provided by comprehensive care programs. Currently many families are forced to use out-of-state comprehensive programs that are very expensive and may not be covered by insurance, especially HMOs that are regional. These expenses are bankrupting hard-working families. Without successful treatment the victim of an eating disorder can end up in an expensive hospital stay where insurers will pay for care that may have been prevented.

Teal Carpenter, President of the NYS School Food Service Association explains the Choose Sensibly campaign to promote healthy choices in cafeterias.
Assemblyman Ortiz said, “It is neither humane nor logical for us to force an individual and family to travel out-of-state to receive life-saving care and ruin themselves financially or end up in a life-threatening situation that requires very expensive and prolonged hospital stays. If we can create model programs around the State, it will be better for those suffering from these conditions, their families and even their health insurers. We can save lives and money.”

Legislation Aims to Prevent
Fatal Allergic Reactions

Assemblyman Ortiz and families from the Capital District educate the public during Food Allergy Awareness Week.
Nearly 11 million Americans suffer from food allergies, including approximately 2 million school-aged children. All of these individuals are at risk for potentially life-threatening allergic reactions resulting in over 30,000 emergency room admissions each year and between 150 and 200 annual deaths, including many young children and young adults. Because trace amounts of these foods can cause a reaction, it is imperative that parents and children can easily identify and avoid those products. It is also vital that an allergic reaction is treated immediately.

Two Task Force bills aim to help those with allergies. One bill, (A.9773/S.4767), would require that foods containing a food allergen be labeled. The other bill, (A.11093), would allow students with food and other severe allergies to carry epinephrine at school to self-administer and possibly save their own life in the event of an allergic reaction.

The labeling legislation would require foods that contain either a major food allergen (shellfish, egg, fish, milk, peanuts, soybeans, tree nuts, and wheat) or a major source of gluten (barley, oats, rye, and triticale) to be labeled as containing such ingredient on the front of the package in which the item is sold, as opposed to only in the small ingredient listing on the side or back of a package.

Families must constantly be on guard against foods that may be dangerous for their children. Even with labeling, there may be instances where a child is exposed to a deadly food and when that happens there is a need for immediate treatment with epinephrine, especially at school.

According to Assemblyman Ortiz, “While it is important that we make our schools free from illegal drugs, we should not make them free from life-saving drugs. Many well-intentioned school administrators are hesitant to allow students to carry epinephrine injectors or epi-pens. My bill would authorize children with severe allergies to carry such medication at school and relieve schools from liability concerns. It would also require that schools keep epinephrine in the nurse’s office for children who are not ready to use it themselves. There is no reason for an allergic child to spend seven hours a day, five days a week 180 days each year without ready access to their lifeline.”

Assemblyman Ortiz discusses the effect of food marketing on children during a public hearing on childhood obesity.

For additional information, contact:
Assemblymember Felix W. Ortiz
Assembly Task Force on Food, Farm and Nutrition Policy
Room 542 Legislative Office Building Albany, New York 12248 (518) 455-3821

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