The U.S. Department of Agriculture has set new nutrition standards for food sold as snacks in schools, giving fruit and vegetable shippers opportunities for vending machines and snack bars.
After considering nearly 250,000 comments, the agency on June 27 published the regulation, called “Smart Snacks in Schools,” also known as the “competitive snacks” rule, for junk food that competes with healthier lunch menus.
Lorelei DiSogra, vice president of nutrition and health at the United Fresh Produce Association, said she was pleased with the regulation, which is expected to go into effect in July 2014.
“The new standards will create many more opportunities for fresh fruits and vegetables, and fresh-cut fruits and vegetables, to be available to students al a carte, school vending machines and school snack bars,” she said.
The new school snack standard complements updated school lunch nutrition standards, which were implemented at the beginning of the 2012-13 school year and doubled the amount of fruits and vegetables served at schools every day, according to a news release from United Fresh.
The standards allow students to pack candy and other treats during in brown bag lunches, and classrooms can celebrate birthdays and holidays with cupcakes.
In a news release, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Vilsack said the “Smart Snacks” standards allow bake sales and other fundraisers, and after-school sporting events and other activities won’t be subject to the standards.
The National Harbor, Md.-based School Nutrition Association said is assessing the rule’s effect of these new regulations on school foodservice operations.
Jessica Donze Black, director of the Washington, D.C.-based Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project, said the rule is an important step toward improving child nutrition.
“With many students consuming up to half of their daily calories at school, these new standards represent the kind of positive change we need to help reduce obesity rates among children and teens,” she said in a news release.
According to the rule's permanent standards:
- Grain products must have at least 50% of whole grains by weight;
- Have the first ingredient one of the non-grain major food groups; fruits, vegetables, dairy or a protein food must be the main ingredient, or for combination foods have a quarter cup fruits/vegetables;
- If water is the first ingredient, the second ingredient must be one of the food items above
Source: USDA Smart Snacks in Schools