USDA Releases School Snack Nutrition Standards
After much anticipation, the USDA released the new “Smart Snacks in School” nutrition standards. These standards aim to improve the nutritional value of snacks offered by the schools.
The new nutrition standards are similar to the school lunch standards recently implemented in the schools. The focus is on more whole grains, low-fat dairy items, fruits, vegetables, and lean protein. Only minimum standards are set; no particular foods or food groups are required to be offered.
The rules affect only foods sold in school during the school day. For instance, concessions at school football games will be exempt from the rules, since the games are after school. Similarly, selling candy for fund raising and bake sales will still be allowed. Parents are free to send cupcakes or other treats for birthday and holiday parties, subject only to the rules of the particular school their child attends.
Better nutrition standards for school snacks primarily improves the health of the kids. It increases their ability to focus on their studies. Better nutrition standards also improve the bottom line of the schools. With more money coming in, schools can increase their offerings, whether in the cafeteria or the classroom.
The thing that I really like about removing junk food from vending machines and snack lines at school is that it puts me back in control of my child’s eating. My view is that junk food should be a treat, if it’s eaten at all. It should not be a daily part of a person’s diet.
Not everyone agrees with me, I know. These rules leave the decision up to the parents. Parents can still send whatever food they want with their kids. Kids can still share with each other in the lunchroom.
The infographic below by the USDA shows the differences in the empty calories between the foods no longer allowed and the foods encouraged by the new nutrition standards for snacks.