USDA issues new school snack standards

By Agri-Pulse staff

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WASHINGTON, June 27, 2013 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that under USDA's new  "Smart Snacks in School" nutrition standards, America's students will be offered healthier food options during the school day, starting in the fall of 2014.

Lets Talk Food

"Nothing is more important than the health and well-being of our children," said Secretary Vilsack. "Parents and schools work hard to give our youngsters the opportunity to grow up healthy and strong, and providing healthy options throughout school cafeterias, vending machines, and snack bars will support their great efforts."

Snacks like candy, cookies and sugary drinks - including Gatorade - will no longer be allowed next year. Instead, vending machines will have to be stocked with products like dried fruits, granola bars and whole wheat crackers.  

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

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

  • Like the new school meals, the standards require healthier foods, more whole grains, low fat dairy, fruits, vegetables and leaner protein.
  • 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 portion size and caffeine content.
  • Ample time for implementation. Schools and food and beverage companies will have an entire school year to make the necessary changes, and USDA will offer training and technical assistance every step of the way.
  • 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.

For more on the new standards, click here.

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