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Join the Conversation on Smart Snacks in Schools

School lunch staff and students enjoy the new school lunch menu created to meet the new standards at the Yorkshire Elementary School in Manassas, VA on Friday, Sept. 7, 2012. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.

School lunch staff and students enjoy the new school lunch menu created to meet the new standards at the Yorkshire Elementary School in Manassas, VA on Friday, Sept. 7, 2012. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.

USDA recently announced its “Smart Snacks in School” proposal that will help to ensure all foods and beverages sold in schools contribute to a healthy diet. The proposal offers a common sense approach to healthy eating by promoting the availability of snack foods with whole grains, low-fat dairy, fruits, vegetables or protein foods as their main ingredients, while preserving time-honored school traditions like occasional bake sales and birthday treats.

Parents and teachers work hard to instill healthy habits, and our proposal reinforces that hard work by ensuring that kids are offered only tasty, nutritious food options at school. Thanks to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, this year students across the country began getting healthier school meals with more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy based on scientific recommendations for nutrition. Through the Act, Congress also directed USDA to set nutrition standards for all foods sold in schools, including vending machines, school snack bars and a la carte, as a complement to the new, healthy standards for breakfast and lunch.

We responded by carefully reviewing expert recommendations from sources such as the Institute of Medicine and the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans; talking to parents, teachers, and nutrition and health professionals; and taking stock of the good work already taking place across the country. Tens of thousands of schools are already moving in this direction through voluntary initiatives like the Alliance for a Healthier Generation (AHG) and USDA’s HealthierUS Schools Challenge. USDA used the AHG nutritional baseline as a model in developing these new standards.

Chocolate milk for students at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia for lunch service, the milk is available through the National School Lunch Program, on Wednesday, October 19, 2011. The National School Lunch Program is a federally assisted meal program administered by the United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service operating in public, nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions. It provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.

Chocolate milk for students at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia for lunch service, the milk is available through the National School Lunch Program, on Wednesday, October 19, 2011. The National School Lunch Program is a federally assisted meal program administered by the United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service operating in public, nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions. It provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.

The intent of the proposed standards is not to limit popular snack items, but instead to provide snack foods for students that are healthier. For example, chips would still be allowed, in healthier versions such as baked tortilla chips, reduced-fat corn chips, and baked potato chips. Many products being sold in schools already meet the proposed standards or are very close to these standards, and the rule allows for a transition time for schools and the food industry to make the necessary adjustments to the school food environment.

To help folks gain a better understanding of how this proposal would change snacks sold in schools we put together this factsheet and a series of frequently asked questions with information about the proposed rule.  The comment period for the proposal is open for 60 days. We encourage you to read the proposed rule and provide feedback and comments at regulations.gov (direct link).

13 Responses to “Join the Conversation on Smart Snacks in Schools”

  1. Allison F. Stafford says:

    Please get rid of all junk food, processed foods with preservatives. I know you can do better! By this day and age, wouldn’t you think it should be out-lawed to even manufacture toxic, cancer-causing, garbage food, let alone allow it in our schools? Fresh, Whole and Organic foods ONLY. My doctor’s orders should be yours too! Oh, and by the way… NO to GMOs! Teach the school children to garden, compost and eat healthy fruits and vegetables. Bring back the Victory Gardens for everyone! Impress upon people how smart you can really be. Eat grass-fed meats, poultry, etc. for clean, healthy eating. Please see Garden Gossip on FB for more info… <3

  2. Melissa L says:

    Our children should be offered whole foods not processed. Whole fruits and vegetables no refined carbs. Not only do we need to break away from processed foods with all of the added sugar but we also need to teach our children how nutrition is a key element to overall health and well being. This is important for our country for many reasons not just the well being of our children but from a policy perspective our healthcare system will not be able to withstand the demands that obesity, diabetes, heart disease, etc will have if we continue To eat so poorly and not focus efforts on education and prevention.

  3. Janet O'Dell says:

    Ditto to what Allison and Melissa posted. The FDA should also FORCE the BIG PHARMA to produce NATURAL medicines first and chemical medicines next. Biologically we are killing ourselves with poisons – not too smart.

  4. Janet O'Dell says:

    BTW, that food looks good to me, wish I had it where I work.

  5. Kristen says:

    Whatever the school decides to do will not change how famlies eat at home…so, no GMO, grassfed, whole grains, organic will not help the obiesity rate!! This needs to start at home not at school!! I would love if the schools would do this, but the fact is the FDA allows stuff into the food that harms us and the Goverment runs our school systems. why would they limit what they allow?

  6. DARA says:

    As a school nutrition professional in a state with stringent competitive food guidelines in place already, I would suggest that prior to rolling out these new federal guidelines, that the USDA figure out how they are going to enforce the regulations. It is one thing to set guidelines, but quite another to make them happen. that is the real challenge. Please keep this in mind as you move forward. thank you.

  7. Sherita says:

    Remove all GMO’s that is the answer, as much as we’d like to NOT believe it! I run a school food program at the kitchen level face to face with the children, I daily feed processed commodity foods to these bright futures daily. Do we preach healthy YES! Do we preach more fruits and veggies surely we do…however what nobody is discussing at the USDA/FDA level are the GMO’s. Im not going to go into a political battle here. More and more people are waking up to it. Those that read here surely have heard these things. Saddens me that more arnt aware and this site has only six responses. smh

  8. Sherita says:

    *awaits patiently to pass thru moderation, which hasn’t happened thus far. Is it because of what I write??????

  9. Amber says:

    As a pediatric nurse and mother of four fabulous kiddos, I know how very difficult it is to change dietary habits. I simply don’t have the time to maintain a garden and I certainly do not expect the school to fill in where I cannot. Our elementary school had a garden cultivated by students. The program was run by a few of the stay at home moms who are very dedicated both to their children and the school. The schools are challenged with doing more and more for the same or less money. It is easy to be hypocritical and blame the schools, but the responsibility for MY child’s nutrition ultimately lies with ME. Let’s stop spending tax money on bureaucratic systems that have proven to fail time and time again!

  10. Kathy says:

    @ Amber: Thank you! It seems that it takes a village to raise a child, but frequently, the parents are the least involved members of the village these days! If snacks in vending machines are so unhealthy & such a major factor in a child’s health, then why don’t these kids lose weight while out on summer vacation? & why aren’t foods sold outside of school hours affected by these guidelines if junk food is truly the enemy? Take a look in their home pantries. You can’t legistate good choices or personal responsibility.

  11. David says:

    Has anyone else heard that Secretary Valsack of the Dept of Agriculture said there are no penalties for non compliance of the smart snacks in school initiative?

  12. Tim says:

    Where in the world does the government get the idea that it’s their job to legislate what we eat and which choices should be available? This is a great example of complete overreach and a waste of our tax dollars.

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