Today, USDA is furthering its commitment to improving the way that our youngsters eat by establishing science-based, common-sense standards for snacks sold in schools. The new “Smart Snacks in School” nutrition standards will positively impact more than 50 million American youngsters by ensuring that they are offered only healthier foods at school.
Based on feedback from nearly 250,000 parents, teachers, school food service professionals, and the food and beverage industry, we carefully balanced science-based nutrition standards, based on recommendations from the Institute of Medicine and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, with practical and flexible solutions to promote healthier eating at school.
I’m proud that we were able to develop meaningful standards that compliment the healthier school meals introduced last fall and make the healthy choice, the easy choice for students across the school food environment – by encouraging snacks that contain whole grains, low-fat dairy, fruits, vegetables or protein as their main ingredients, and placing sensible limits on sugar, fat, and salt.
We were able to achieve this goal while still giving schools flexibility to continue important traditions like fundraisers and bake sales, and preserve parents’ ability to send in homemade lunches and birthday cupcakes. The new standards are also appropriately limited in scope and do not apply to foods sold at venues such as after-school sporting events or weekend school plays.
But we also recognize that decisions on what standards make the most sense for their communities should happen on the local level, which is why we’ve set only minimum standards that act as a consistent national baseline to provide greater certainty for food and beverage companies and for schools. States and schools with more stringent standards than what we’ve released today will be able to maintain their own policies.
As with the new school meals, we know that change takes time. That is why schools and snack food companies will have an entire school year to prepare for the necessary changes, and we will offer training and technical assistance every step of the way. In fact, a wide range of healthy options are already available in most food and beverage companies’ portfolios, in response to the growing call by parents and schools for healthier snack foods.
The Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards are the next step in our efforts to improve the health of America’s young people, but we know there is more work to be done. USDA and our partners are working hard to ensure that all children have access to affordable, nutritious food, so that America’s next generation of leaders grow up healthy and strong.