Congress allows schools to request snack food rule delay

Schools can receive a waiver if they can demonstrate the new rules would incur additional expenses.

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Under a provision passed in Congress earlier this month, schools may request a delay to comply with new U.S. Department of Agriculture nutrition standards for food and beverages sold in schools. The 2014 omnibus funding bill directs USDA to establish a waiver approval process by April 17, 2014 that will apply to regulations set to go into effect on July 1, 2014. To qualify for the waiver, schools must demonstrate that they cannot comply with the new regulations without incurring additional expenses during the 2014/15 school year.

For the first time, the government is going to regulate all foods sold in schools, not just the food served in meal lines. The new standards, often called “Smart Snacks in Schools,” were laid out in an Interim Final Rule on June 28, 2013 and will apply to "a la carte" lines in school cafeterias, vending machines, and snack bars, but won't apply to fundraisers, after-school concession stands, or class parties. USDA will issue a final rule, but all the requirements in the interim final rule go into effect on July 1, unless a school is granted a waiver under the new petition process.