The U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed healthier standards for school snacks this month to promote healthy food options as part of the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010.
“These proposed changes are intended to improve the health and well-being of the nation’s children, increase consumption of healthful foods during the school day and create an environment that reinforces the development of healthy eating habits,” the Feb. 1 proposal stated.
If passed, schools nationwide would be required to abide by these standards, but would have the discretion to establish personalized standards for nonprogram foods sold to children, as long as such standards meet the final minimum standards.
All but one Nevada County elementary school district are contracted with Grass Valley Child Nutrition Services, according to Nevada County Superintendent of Schools Holly Hermansen. The high school district also prepares its own meals and follows any new requirements that are released, Hermansen said.
“Each school district is required to have a wellness policy through which they need to address any new requirements,” Hermansen said. “I am supportive of efforts to bring healthy food to our students, as well as educational programs provided to our students to help them better understand health and nutrition.”
The proposed standards are already in line with most California food standards passed in 2007 with Senate Bill 12 and 965, which put restrictions on school meals and beverages, said Suzanne Grass, food service director for Grass Valley School District Nutrition Services.
“California has one of the strictest competitive foods legislations,” Grass said. “California tends to be ahead of most things in child nutrition and this report is real similar to what California’s already been doing. We tend to be more ahead of the curve and usually if a federal law is passed, the state can enforce stricter rules.
“We have such great access, but there are still states where they still serve soft drinks in middle and high school, so that’s what this is going to take care of. We really felt we needed something at a national level that encompasses all states.”
Local schools still offer snack foods, but in healthier forms, Grass said.
“We have a couple a la carte programs with baked chips, yogurt parfaits, beef jerky, this year I eliminated Gatorade, but we do water and if we do sherbets or anything like that, they’re 100 percent fruit juice, and we do (locally owned) Culture Shock yogurt,” Grass said. “At the school district level, when they have their wellness policy, you can have one district with more stringent policies regarding foods than you may at another district.”
The USDA standards were based off scientific findings, including the 2007 “Nutrition Standards for Foods in Schools: Leading the Way Toward Healthier Youth” report by the Institute of Medicine, standards by other organizations including Alliance for a Healthier Generation and existing state and local standards, according to the USDA website.
“Nearly one-third of children in America are at risk for preventable diseases like diabetes and heart disease due to being overweight or obese.
“If left unaddressed, health experts tell us that this generation may be the first to live shorter lives than their parents,” said a release from the USDA.
According to the document, at least 39 states currently have some kind of competitive food standards in place, many with little or no loss of revenue, and some with an increase in revenue.
The requirements include that all food sold in schools must be either a fruit, vegetable, dairy product, protein food, “whole grain rich” grain product, which contains 50 percent or more whole grains by weight or have whole grains as the first ingredient, or a combination food that contains at least a quarter-cup of fruit or vegetable or 10 percent of the daily value of a nutrient cited in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
The proposal also limits fat, sugar, sodium content, types of beverages offered, and makes the availability of potable water near lunch areas compulsory.
Food brought from home or sold after school hours are not subject to the regulations, though fundraising foods must adhere to the standards.
To review the full standards, visit http://www.fns.usda.gov/cga/020113-snacks.pdf.
Those who would like to comment on the standards should submit a statement by April 9 to http://www.regulations.gov, select “Food and Nutrition Service” and click “Submit.”
In the ID column of the search results, select “FNS-2011-0019” to review submitted comments or related material.
For further information, contact Julie Brewer, chief of policy and program development at Child Nutrition Division, Food and Nutrition Service, 3101 Park Center Drive, Alexandria, VA 22302 or 703-305-2590.
To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4230.