(UPDATED COVERAGE, Feb. 7) Students can say goodbye to Snickers, Funyuns and Hot Tamales in school vending machines/stores if a U.S. Department of Agriculture plan is approved, promoting fruits and vegetables instead.
The proposed rule, Smart Snacks in Schools, seeks to drive out food with high fat, sugar and sodium.
Under the proposed rule, food sold in schools must:
- Be a fruit, vegetable, dairy product, protein food, a whole-grain product or a combination food that contains at least a quarter cup of fruit or vegetable; or
- Contain 10% of the daily value of a nutrient cited in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans: calcium, potassium, vitamin D or fiber; and
- Meet a range of calorie and nutrient requirements.
Children can still bring the banned snacks in bagged lunches, and the law wouldn’t restrict sweets at school birthday/holiday celebrations, bake sales/fund-raisers and after-school events.
The standards will not go into effect until at least a full school year after final approval. A 60-day comment period is planned.
More vending companies servicing schools are featuring refrigerated units, said Tony Freytag, director of marketing at Wenatchee, Wash.-based Crunch Pak. Crunch Pak markets fresh-cut apple slices.
“The great part about the school business is that the turn is so fast,” he said. “Those machines are serviced virtually every day, so you can keep the freshest product in the machines,” he said.
Lorelei DiSogra, vice president of nutrition and health for the United Fresh Produce Association, said targeting junk food opens doors for fresh produce.
“We really believe this will open up many new opportunities to increase fresh fruits and vegetables in school al a carte lines, vending machines and school stores and will go a long way toward creating a healthier school environment,” DiSogra said.
The USDA proposal elevates the status of healthy foods instead of just setting fat and calorie standards, said Tracy Fox, president of Food, Nutrition & Policy Consultants LLC, Washington, D.C.
“This is a logical next step in making sure that all of the foods and beverages that kids have access during the school day are healthy,” Fox said. “We have anxiously been awaiting these, and now that they are out, we are looking forward to digging into them and really helping USDA as they finalize these rules and working with schools and schools as they implement them.”
The law follows the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which requires the USDA to establish nutrition standards for all foods sold in schools. The new plan comes on the heels of revised standards for school meals implemented in the fall, which greatly increased mandated servings of fruits and vegetables in meals.
The Smart Snacks proposal draws on recommendations from the Institute of Medicine and existing voluntary standards already implemented by thousands of schools around the country, according to a USDA news release.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a recent report evaluating state policies for food and beverages served outside the cafeteria. Thirty-nine states already have a state law regulating foods sold at schools. The USDA said its proposal would provide a minimum that all states must meet, though some states may have more stringent requirements.
Applauding the USDA’s proposal, Jessica Donze Black, director of the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project, sponsored by Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said in a news release that the regulation is the first update in the rules in more than 30 years.