USDA Proposes “Smart Snack” Standards in Schools: Public Comments Sought
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 requires USDA to establish nutrition standards for all foods sold in schools — beyond the federally-supported school meals programs. Last week, USDA released the new “Smart Snacks in School” proposed rule — the first step in the process to create national standards.
The public is encouraged to review the proposal and to provide comments for consideration by USDA for 60 days (through April 9).
The new proposed standards draw on recommendations from the Institute of Medicine, existing voluntary standards already implemented by thousands of schools around the country, and healthy food and beverage offerings already available in the marketplace.
Highlights of USDA’s proposal include:
- More of the foods we should encourage. Promoting availability of healthy snack foods with whole grains, low fat dairy, fruits, vegetables or protein foods as their main ingredients.
- Less of the foods we should avoid. Ensuring that snack food items are lower in fat, sugar, and sodium and provide more of the nutrients kids need.
- Targeted standards. Allowing variation by age group for factors such as beverage portion size and caffeine content.
- Flexibility for important traditions. Preserving the ability for parents to send in bagged lunches of their choosing or treats for activities such as birthday parties, holidays, and other celebrations; and allowing schools to continue traditions like occasional fundraisers and bake sales.
- Reasonable limitations on when and where the standards apply. Ensuring that standards only affect foods that are sold on school campus during the school day. Foods sold at an afterschool sporting event or other activity will not be subject to these requirements.
- Flexibility for state and local communities. Allowing significant local and regional autonomy by only establishing minimum requirements for schools. States and schools that have stronger standards than what is being proposed will be able to maintain their own policies.
- Significant transition period for schools and industry. The standards will not go into effect until at least one full school year after public comment is considered and an implementing rule is published to ensure that schools and vendors have adequate time to adapt.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently issued a report that analyzed state policies for food and beverages served outside the school lunch line which noted that 39 states already have a state law, regulation or policy in place related to the sale or availability of snack foods and beverages in schools. In many cases, local level (district and school) policies and practices exceeded state requirements or recommendations. USDA’s proposal would establish a national baseline of these standards, with the overall goal of improving the health and nutrition of our kids.