USDA has announced the opening of the public comment period for proposed new standards about so-called "competitive foods" in schools.
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 requires USDA to establish nutrition standards for all foods sold in schools beyond the federally-supported school meals programs. The "Smart Snacks in School" proposed rule, to be published soon in the Federal Register, is the first step in the process to create national standards. The new proposed standards draw on recommendations from the Institute of Medicine, existing voluntary standards already implemented by schools around the country and healthy food and beverage offerings already available in the marketplace.
Highlights of USDA's proposal include...
• Promoting availability of healthy snack foods with whole grains, low fat dairy, fruits, vegetables or protein foods as their main ingredients.
• Ensuring that snack food items are lower in fat, sugar, and sodium and provide more of the nutrients kids need.
• Allowing variation by age group for factors such as beverage portion size and caffeine content.
• Preserving the ability for parents to send in bagged lunches of their choosing or treats for activities such as birthday parties, holidays, and other celebrations, and allowing schools to continue traditions like occasional fundraisers and bake sales.
• Ensuring that standards only affect foods that are sold on school campus during the school day. Foods sold at an afterschool sporting event or other activity will not be subject to these requirements.
• 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 standards will not go into effect until at least one full school year after public comment is considered and an implementing rule is published to ensure that schools and vendors have adequate time to adapt.
The text of the proposed rule is available at http://www.fns.usda.gov/cga/020113-snacks.pdf. Once the rule is published in the Federal Register, which is expected next week, the public will be able to provide feedback through www.regulations.gov. USDA will seek public comment on the proposal for 60 days.
"School Nutrition Association (SNA) supports the goal of ensuring that all foods and beverages sold in schools are healthy options for students,” comments SNA President Sandra Ford, SNS. “School nutrition professionals have been working hard to increase nutritious choices available in the cafeteria by serving more whole grains, fruits and vegetables and limiting the sodium and fat in meals—all part of ongoing efforts to implement new nutrition standards for school meals. SNA looks forward to reviewing the details of these newly proposed competitive food regulations and providing feedback through the public comment process.”