America’s students will be offered healthier food options during the school day under USDA’s new “Smart Snacks in School” nutrition standards. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said, “Nothing is more important than the health and well-being of our 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.” The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 requires USDA to establish nutrition standards for all foods sold in schools. Highlights of the “Smart Snacks in School” 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 meat 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 allow variation by age group for factors such as portion size and caffeine content.
· Flexibility for important traditions preserves 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; allows schools to continue traditions like fundraisers and bake sales.
· Schools and food and beverage companies will have an entire school year to make the necessary changes; USDA will offer training and technical assistance.
· Reasonable limitations on when and where the standards apply. Standards only affect foods that are sold on school campus during the school day. Foods sold at after school sporting events or other activities will not be subject to these requirements.
· Allowing significant local and regional autonomy by only establishing minimum requirements for schools. States and schools with stronger standards than the proposed USDA standards can maintain their own policies.
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