US schools vending

USDA ‘Smart Snacks’ campaign will see less junk food in US Schools

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has launched its “Smart Snacks in Schools” nutrition standards, which will affect the kind of foods allowed to be sold in vending machines or other a la carte settings in US schools.

The standards aim to improve childhood nutrition and encourage families to commit to healthier eating habits by providing scientific- based information and advice, while also increasing the availability of healthy foods.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that nothing is more important than the good health and nutrition for the nation’s children: “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.”

Highlights of the Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards include:

  • More of the foods we should encourage. Like the new school meals, the standards require healthier foods, more whole grains, low fat dairy, fruits, vegetables and leaner protein.
  • Less of the foods we should avoid. 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.
  • Flexibility for important traditions. Preserving the ability for parents to send their kids to school with homemade lunches or treats for activities such as birthday parties, holidays, and other celebrations; and allowing schools to continue traditions like fundraisers and bake sales.
  • 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.
  • 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. Foods sold at afterschool sporting events or other activities will not be subject to these requirements.
  • 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.

The new nutrition standards complement the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 which has childhood nutrition as its focal point, authorising funding and setting out policies for the USDA’s core child nutrition programs.