Schools junking junk food

Feb. 03–Little Debbie is on her way out of schools during the day.

Area schools must soon limit selling food items for fundraisers and through vending machines thanks to a new federal law called the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

The stricter, healthier nutrition requirements that President Barack Obama signed into law begins July 1. Whitfield County Schools officials decided to implement some of the new standards at their Monday night Board of Education meeting.

School officials didn’t give a clear timetable of when they’ll start complying with the law and said the requirements could have some last minute adjustments.

“The goal is to get the kids to eat healthier,” said Angie Brown, school nutrition director for the school system.

The new nutrition standards require drinks sold on school grounds — either at fundraisers or through vending machines — to be plain water, unflavored low fat milk, fat free milk or 100 percent fruit or vegetable juices.

The law only applies during school hours, Brown said. That means students and school officials can still sell what they want as long as the event takes place late in the day, such as Friday night football games, or during the weekends. Fundraising off school grounds isn’t impacted by the law, Brown added.

Food must fall within calorie limits of less than 200 calories for snacks, 350 for meals, and sodium limits of less than 230 milligrams for snacks, 480 milligrams for meals. It also requires fat limits in all food of less than 35 percent total fat, less than 20 percent saturated fat and zero trans fat, along with sugar limits of less than 35 percent of total sugar.

The law also limits food sold to food rich with whole grain, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, proteins or food that is at least one-fourth a fruit or vegetable.

“There will be a downside with (fundraising),” Brown said. “We will have to look at each individual product and make sure (it falls within the law). And that will mean some big changes.”

Students and staff won’t be able to sell snacks such as Goldfish crackers, Little Debbie products or snacks like Cheetos or Oreos, among others. That also means no more bake sales with sugary sweets like cakes or cinnamon rolls.

Whitfield Superintendent Judy Gilreath said any noncompliance with the new law means the school system could lose federal funding. The state Department of Education will review schools this year to make sure all comply, she added.

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