Feb. 1—More healthy foods, less junk food. That’s the basis of the USDA’s newly released Smart Snacks in Schools regulations, required under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.
The proposed rule will be published soon, but highlights include:
• More of the foods we should encourage. Promoting availability of healthy snack foods with whole grains, low-fat dairy, fruits, vegetables or protein foods as their main ingredients.
• Less of the foods we should avoid. Ensuring that snack food items are lower in fat, sugar, and sodium and provide more of the nutrients kids need.
• Targeted standards. Allowing variation by age group for factors such as beverage portion size and caffeine content.
• Flexibility for important traditions. Preserving the ability for parents to send in bagged lunches of their choosing or treats for activities such as birthday parties, holidays, and other celebrations; and allowing schools to continue traditions like occasional fundraisers and bake sales.
• Reasonable limitations on when and where the standards apply. Ensuring that standards only affect foods that are sold on school campus during the school day. Foods sold at an afterschool sporting event or other activity will not be subject to these requirements.
• Flexibility for state and local communities. Allowing significant local and regional autonomy by only establishing minimum requirements for schools. States and schools that have stronger standards than what is being proposed will be able to maintain their own policies.
• Significant transition period for schools and industry. The standards will not go into effect until at least one full school year after public comment is considered and an implementing rule is published to ensure that schools and vendors have adequate time to adapt.
These regulations do no affect reimbursable meals sold in the cafeteria. They do affect à la carte, vending and snack sales. The rules also do not affect classroom parties, fundraisers or items sold at sporting events.
"School Nutrition Association (SNA) supports the goal of ensuring that all foods and beverages sold in schools are healthy options for students,” said SNA President Sandra Ford. “School nutrition professionals have been working hard to increase nutritious choices available in the cafeteria by serving more whole grains, fruits and vegetables and limiting the sodium and fat in meals-all part of ongoing efforts to implement new nutrition standards for school meals. SNA looks forward to reviewing the details of these newly proposed competitive food regulations and providing feedback through the public comment process.”