USDA Finally Raises the Bar for School Snacks

Health and food policy advocates immediately praised USDA rules released today that will raise the nutrition bar for school snacks. The new rules will apply to snacks, drinks, and other foods sold outside of regular meals. Vending machine snacks can have no more the 200 calories and must meet other criteria that include limits on fat and sugar content.

The highly anticipated rules implement provisions of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which also overhauled nutrition standards for school lunches. USDA issued new standards for lunches and breakfasts about a year ago. The new rules cover foods sold in vending machines, snack bars, and other school outlets, but they avoided the more sensitive issues of bake sales, parties, and bagged lunches brought by students.

Geri Henchy, Director of Nutrition Policy for the Food Research and Action Center, praised the action: “Moving forward with nutrition standards for all food sold in school and the provision of free drinking water for all students are important steps in the much-needed comprehensive overhaul of the school nutrition environment.”

Likewise, Mago Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest offered immediate praise. “This is great news for the country, for children, for families. It’s a step toward getting junk food out of vending machines and schools.”  Even snack and beverage industry representatives expressed general agreement with the guidelines.

A study published last year in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine found that about half of elementary students could buy unhealthy snacks at school in the 2009-2010 year.

Click here to read about the new rules on Bloomberg, click here to read more in the New York Times, and click here to read the study of access to unhealthy snacks in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.