Alliance for a Healthier Generation Statement on the U.S. Department of Agriculture Proposed National Nutrition Standards
For Snack Foods and Beverages Sold in Schools
The Alliance for a Healthier Generation applauds the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today, in the release of the proposed national nutrition standards for snack foods and beverages sold in school as result of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. These standards will address items that are typically sold in vending machines, a la carte lines (items sold individually in the cafeteria), and school stores.
In 2006, the Alliance’s Healthy Schools Program created a set of age-appropriate and science-based nutrition guidelines that focus on the promotion of nutrient-rich foods including fat-free and low-fat dairy products and place limits on calories, fat, saturated fat, trans fat, sugar and sodium for both snacks and drinks. We are pleased the proposed guidelines released by USDA today are closely aligned to the Alliance’s Guidelines with the exception of slight variances such as proposed sodium levels in snacks and calorie options in alternative beverages for the high school setting.
The Alliance is pleased to see these proposed federal guidelines moving forward, putting the nutrition of all foods and beverages in school buildings on a level playing field. The choices students have access to through vending, snack carts and school stores should mirror the nutritious choices they see in the cafeteria line to promote healthy eating in all corners of the school building.
The items sold in these venues are often referred to as “competitive foods” because they compete with school meals for student demand and revenue. Once the USDA’s final nutrition standards for school snacks and beverages are officially released, every school in the country will have to meet the new guidelines. The Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program is available to support all schools with expert advice and resources, at no cost, to help them offer healthier food and drink choices to students. Resources include a list of compliant food and beverage products and technical assistance on building student support. Any school or individual can access support instantly at http://www.HealthierGeneration.org/smartsnacks.
Despite the lack of national standards, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program has helped thousands of schools around the country in their efforts to serve healthier meals, snacks and beverages and these schools are now well-positioned to meet the forthcoming federal guidelines.
Schools participating in the Alliance’s Healthy Schools Program implement best practices to improve school food, physical activity, health education, and employee wellness programs. As part of the process, schools take an annual inventory of their current programs and practices related to health and wellness to continuously identify areas that need improvement. Currently, more than 70 percent of participating schools offer only beverages that comply with the Alliance’s strict School Beverage Guidelines, and more than 50 percent only offer snacks that meet the Alliance Competitive Foods Guidelines.
“We support the development of national nutrition standards for all snacks and beverages served in schools,” said Ginny Ehrlich, D. Ed., Chief Executive Officer of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. “The Alliance works with more than 15,000 schools around the country to help them transform their campuses into healthier places. We recognize the role that healthy school foods and beverages play in student health and academic performance.”
The Alliance has been at the forefront of improving access to healthier food and beverages in schools since 2006. The Alliance brokered two landmark industry agreements with the Snack Food Association and the American Beverage Association. More than 70 industry leaders have agreed to develop and distribute products that meet the Alliance Competitive Foods and Beverage Guidelines to help students make healthier choices in school vending machines, a la carte lines, snack bars, fundraisers, and school stores. These voluntary agreements have resulted in a 90 percent reduction in total beverage calories shipped to schools between 2004 and 2010.
Many schools participating in the Alliance’s Healthy Schools Program are offering their students healthier snack and beverage options without negatively impacting the school’s overall food service revenue or general discretionary funds. At Lewis Frasier Middle School in Georgia, vending machines only carry water and low-calorie juices. When the school made the switch to healthier options, student demand remained intact. According to Peggy Rayman, school nurse at Lewis Frasier, “If kids are thirsty, they will buy it.” In Florida, Gainesville High School is home to a café that functions like a co-op where student clubs run the café selling items like turkey burgers, low-fat pizza, and fruit juice smoothies and receive the profits after reimbursing the food service department the purchase price. Many schools, like those in Canton, Ohio, find that sales of a la carte and vending items may decrease but that it is offset by a rise in school meal participation which brings in a more stable revenue stream from the federal government.
About the Alliance for a Healthier Generation
The Alliance for a Healthier Generation, founded by the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation, works to reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity and to empower kids to develop lifelong, healthy habits. The Alliance works with schools, companies, community organizations, healthcare professionals and families to transform the conditions and systems that lead to healthier children. To learn more and join the movement, visit www.HealthierGeneration.org.