USDA Smart Snacks
Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a national policy setting nutrition standards for snacks and drinks served throughout the school building. This is the first time these guidelines have been updated since 1979 – yes, more than 30 years.
These rules are specific to the snacks and beverages sold around campus – aka competitive foods – those items sold in vending machines, school stores, snack carts, and a la carte lines – basically anything sold outside of the school lunch and breakfast programs. Last year, school meals – those foods that make up lunch and breakfast – went through an overhaul, and now with the new smart snack guidelines, all foods sold around campus will be held to a higher healthier standard.
With kids consuming about 50 percent of their daily calories at school, these guidelines are a major step to ensure that those snacks and drinks provide youth with the nutrients they need to perform better and grow healthier.
“Now when we teach kids about good nutrition in the classroom, our lessons will no longer be contradicted by easy access to vending machines peddling candy and empty calorie beverages in the hallways.”
–Dr. Howell Wechsler, Alliance CEO. Read Howell’s Statement
So What Does this Mean?
On a general level, these guidelines promote smaller portion sizes and healthier options. That means kids will not have to choose between the honey bun and the apple but between the apple and the orange.
- Water in – Soda out
- Baked chips in – Regular chips out
- 100% juice in – “Fruit drinks” out
- Fruit in – Candy bars out
These can be big changes for schools. We know, we’ve been helping schools make these changes for a while now. We have nutrition experts who can assess your products and determine if and how you need to make changes in your school. If you need to swap some items, we have a list of snacks and beverages that meet the new nutrition standards.
So let’s get started now. The standards need to be implemented by the 2014-2015 school year. But you can begin work now, this year, and start offering different options to students to get them involved and receive feedback before next year.