Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has a commonsense approach to fighting childhood obesity by restricting access to vending machines in public schools. There's only one problem: He isn't in the right job to do it — at least not yet. Gov. Rick Scott can fix that by signing legislation that would transfer oversight of school nutritional programs from the Department of Education to Putnam's office.
With 10 percent of Florida high school students considered obese, according to a 2009 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study, the need is clear. If nothing is done, the state's and families' health care costs stand to grow with students' waistlines, as more children develop obesity-related diseases such as Type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular ailments.
But Putnam is taking on a proven moneymaker for some public schools. Vending machines hawking sodas and other junk food generate revenue for extra programs, but students frequently choose that fare over healthier cafeteria offerings. Putnam isn't proposing eliminating the machines, just that they only be available during a portion of the day or that they include healthier snacks. He said rules could vary between elementary and high schools. School leaders should meet him halfway.
Putnam sold lawmakers on transferring oversight for school nutrition to his agency in part because of his commitment to introduce more fresh fruits and vegetables into school lunches. With this additional initiative, Putnam is proving their faith was well placed. Scott should sign SB 1312 to make fighting childhood obesity officially part of Putnam's job.