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USDA proposal targets school snacks

By Mary Richards | Posted - Feb 13th, 2013 @ 8:15am

WASHINGTON — Federal rules have taken aim at implementing more healthy food choices in America's schools, first with school lunches and now school snacks.

A new USDA proposal focuses on snacks sold in schools, and it spawns from the 2010 Healthy, Hungry-Free Kids Act, which overhauled the nutritional makeup of regular school meals.

Luann Elliot, director of children nutrition programs at the Utah State Office of Education, said the proposal covers all food sold on school campuses, except concessions during games and events.

"The rule is really saying we want to offer and encourage more good foods. It focuses on avoiding certain things; avoid too much fat, too much sugars," she said.

USDA's Proposal Highlights
  • 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.
  • 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.
Source: USDA

Elliott said many Utah school districts are already moving toward these changes on their own and are taking steps to educate children on healthy snack choices. Rose Park Elementary, for example, partnered with Intermountain Healthcare in 2012 to replace candy bars with inspirational and healthy messages in vending machines instead of candy bars.

Schools will still be able to host fundraisers and bake sales, and parents should still be able to bring treats to their children's classrooms as long as they follow the school's rules.

"I think this is just another move to work together so that we are providing healthy choices for kids, and we make healthy choices easy," she said.

As for health standards for snacks in school, Elliot said guidelines are being drawn from research and recommendations from experts, while using success found in other parts of the country as a model.

"They draw on the recommendations from the institute of medicine, existing voluntary standards that are already being implemented around the nation, and healthy foods and beverages that are already out there on the market," Elliot said.

The public has 60 days to comment on the proposal before a final rule is made. To view more details on the proposal and to comment, visit the USDA's website.

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