Bill could limit school bake sales, fundraisers

WASHINGTON -- More children would eat lunches and dinners at school under legislation passed Thursday by the House and sent to the president, part of first lady Michelle Obama's campaign to end childhood hunger and fight obesity.

The $4.5 billion bill, approved by the House 264-157, would also try to cut down on greasy foods and extra calories by giving the government power to decide what foods may be sold in vending machines and lunch lines.

The bill could even limit frequent school bake sales and fundraisers that give kids extra chances to eat brownies and pizza.

The first lady said in a statement after the vote that she is "thrilled" about House passage.

Republicans said the bill is too expensive and an example of government overreach.

Even Sarah Palin has weighed in, bringing cookies to a speech at a Pennsylvania school last month and calling efforts to limit junk food in schools a "nanny state run amok."

Democrats said the legislation is needed to stem rising healthcare costs caused by expanding American waistlines and to feed hungry children in tough economic times.

The Agriculture Department would write the new nutrition standards, which would likely keep popular foods like hamburgers and pizza in school cafeterias but make them more healthful, using leaner meat or whole-wheat crust, for example.

Vending machines could be stocked with less candy and fewer high-calorie drinks.

Bake sales and other school-sponsored fundraisers that sell unhealthful foods could be limited under the legislation, which would allow them only if they are infrequent.

The Agriculture Department would determine how often they could be held.