School snacks would be healthier under new standards

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Feb. 18, 2013

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The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture has proposed new nutrition standards to ensure that children have access to healthy food options in school. The plan, Smart Snacks in School, was issued on Feb. 1. Physicians and other community members have 60 days to comment on the details by going online (link).

The proposal is part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which President Obama signed into law in December 2010. That legislation aims to improve child nutrition in part by requiring the USDA to establish nutrition standards for all foods that are sold in schools.

Highlights of the recently proposed plan include:

  • Offering healthy snacks that contain as their main ingredient whole grains, low-fat dairy, fruits, vegetables or protein.
  • Ensuring that snack food is lower in fat, sugar and sodium.
  • Allowing variation by age group for beverage portion size and caffeine content.

The recommended standards were created using guidance from the Institute of Medicine and existing voluntary standards that already are implemented by schools nationwide, the USDA said.

Under the proposed rules, children still could bring lunches to school and share treats with classmates for activities such as birthdays and holiday celebrations, the USDA said. The plan also would permit schools to continue occasional bake sale traditions (link).

If approved, the plan would affect only foods sold on school campuses during the school day. Products sold at after-school sporting events and other activities will not be subject to the requirements, the USDA said. States and schools with stronger standards than those proposed by the USDA can maintain their own policies, according to the agency.

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