Georgia Schools Push Back on Strict Snack Sale Rules

As a nationwide drive continues to offer healthier food choices in schools, the Georgia Board of Education is allowing state schools to sell snacks as fundraising efforts — with a few restrictions.

“The exemption is for 30 fundraisers, but each of those fundraisers can last up to three days,” said State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge.

Schools may now offer “unhealthy snacks” for half of the 180 day school year.  Under the new federal law placing a ban on the selling of such food items, snacks sold must have at least 50% in whole grains, fruit, vegetable, dairy or protein as the first ingredient.  Snacks may not contain more than 200 calories, 230 milligrams of sodium, and no higher than 35% of calories can come from fat.

Diet sodas and low fat milk are allowed in limited amounts.  Children are allowed to bring in any snacks from home they choose.

The federal Smart Snack Law went into effect July 1, 2014 as a part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 pushed into law by first lady Michelle Obama.  Georgia is the 17th state to lift the snack ban while keeping limitations.

According to board members, the federal government should not have a say in what they believe to be a local matter, calling the rules an “absolute overreach of the federal government.”

“Georgians know what’s best for Georgians and it’s more for me a message about federal versus state than it is nutrition in the school, because that’s a local decision,” said Barbara Hampton of the Georgia Board of Education.

The American Heart Association publicly urged the board to vote against the exemptions, citing the 30 states that have so far opted not to allow the sale of unhealthy foods in their schools.  If the state were to allow the unhealthy snacks, they would have “the worst, weakest policy in the nation,” according to Marsi Thrash, government relations director for the AHA in Georgia, who said that one in three children in Georgia are considered obese or overweight.

“At AHA, we believe that prevention of cardiovascular disease can never start too early. And selling unhealthy food to kids to raise money is just wrong.”

In general, school foods have greatly improved since the 2010 law.  More fruits, vegetables and whole grains are being offered.  Local foods are seeing an increase in schools as well as part of the “farm to school” movement.

However, many view the sale of sweets during fundraisers as traditional.

“We need this money for competition, for outfits, for buses, without those sales we can’t go,” Harmony Hart, who said her dance team in Rockdale County is reliant on bake sales.

Currently, many schools in the state are planning fundraisers that do not involve snack foods.