New Standards = Healthier Food Options for Kids

Jul 19, 2013

PHOTOGRAPHY: Rubbermaid Products

Good news for kids and the people who care about them: Under the new "Smart Snacks in School" nutrition standards developed by the United States Department of Agriculture, America's students will be offered healthier food options during the school day.

"Many parents are working hard every day to make sure they provide healthy, balanced meals and snacks to their kids,” says First Lady Michelle Obama. “Unfortunately, we don't always have control over the snacks our kids have access to when they're away from home. That's why, as a mom myself, I am so excited that schools will now be offering healthier choices to students and reinforcing the work we do at home to help our kids stay healthy.”

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 requires the USDA to establish nutrition standards for all foods sold in schools—beyond the federally supported meals programs. The "Smart Snacks in School" nutrition standards reflect the USDA's consideration of, and response to, the nearly 250,000 comments received on the proposal earlier this year.

"Smart Snacks in School" balances science-based nutrition guidelines with practical and flexible solutions to promote healthier eating on campus, drawing on recommendations from the Institute of Medicine and existing voluntary standards already implemented by thousands of schools around the country, as well as healthy food and beverage offerings already available in the marketplace.

Highlights of the "Smart Snacks in School" nutrition standards include the following:

  • More of the foods we should encourage. Like the new school meals, snacks will get healthier, with more whole grains, low-fat dairy, fruits, vegetables and leaner protein.
  • Less of the foods we should avoid. The new snacks will be lower in fat, sugar, and sodium and provide more of the nutrients kids need.
  • Targeted standards. Requirements allow variation by age group for factors such as portion size and caffeine content.
  • Flexibility for important traditions. The new standards preserve parents' freedom to send their kids to school with homemade lunches; allow for treats during activities such as birthday parties, holidays and other celebrations; and let schools to continue traditions like fundraisers and bake sales.
  • Ample time for implementation. Schools and food and beverage companies have an entire school year to make the necessary changes, and the USDA will offer training and technical assistance every step of the way.
  • Reasonable limitations on when and where the standards apply. Only foods sold on school campus during the school day are affected. Foods sold at after-school sporting events or other activities are not subject to these requirements.
  • Flexibility for state and local communities. Significant local and regional autonomy will persist, since the USDA is only establishing minimum requirements for schools. States and schools with stronger standards than those being proposed will be able to maintain their own policies.

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