USDA Dictates Final Rules on Smart Snacks in School Program


(Photo: Evan-Amos, Creative Commons)

A USDA has announced to all US schools that unhealthy snacks for students must be eliminated in the 2016-2017 academic year, a move that completes the Smart Snacks in School program which began in 2014. Healthy snacks will be provided at schools to take the place of junk food.

"Education and wellness and advertising to kids about healthier choices [and] that all has to be part of the school environment just like making sure they have pencils and paper and computers," Katie Wilson, USDA deputy under secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, told ABC News.

Emily Monaco of the Organic Authority reports that a 2014 study published in the American Medical Association Pediatrics found that 70% of kids in elementary and middle school were exposed to junk food advertisements at school which, showed a study in Obesity Review, may contribute to childhood obesity. The study found that young people are more apt to eat foods that are unhealthy after seeing advertisements that featured such food.

The new ruling meets the standards laid out in First Lady Michelle Obama's 2010 Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA). The Act created standards that included serving more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Smart Snacks in School is built on the foundation of the HHFKA and is approved by the First Lady. The CDC advises that childhood obesity has more than doubled in the past 30 years, and adolescent obesity has more than quadrupled. Almost 18% of young people from ages 6 to 11 in the US were found to be obese in 2012.

Snacks must be low in calories, low in sodium, and low in fat and sugar, according to the new guidelines. Emphasis on "whole grain-rich" or foods made up of mostly vegetables or fruits will be required. The USDA is recommending that schools serve only water, low-fat milk, milk alternatives, or 100% vegetable or fruit juice, write Serena Wilson and Stephanie Ebbs for ABC News.

Ninety-eight percent of schools across the country are already abiding by these standards. The USDA says it will continue to educate parents, staff, and communities about making healthier nutritional food choices.

In 2010, First Lady Michelle Obama also began the "Let's Move" campaign to get kids up and moving and to fight against obesity among youngsters.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stated:

"Children's ability to learn in the classroom and reach their fullest potential depends on what we do right now to ensure their health. The actions we are announcing today continue the Administration's unprecedented commitment to building a healthier next generation and institutionalize the positive changes schools across the country have already made."

PA Media Group's Paul Vigna reports that one study found that 70% of elementary and middle school-age pupils see advertisements for unhealthy foods during the school day, and recent research shows that after kids see these ads for junk food, they eat a higher volume of unhealthy foods.

The four changes included in the new rules make up a slate of changes to the HHFKA based on public input and lessons learned during the implementation of the original Act. Only foods that meet the Smart Snacks standards may be sold or advertised on campuses.

The administrative processes that allow all students in schools with high poverty rates to be given lunches and breakfasts at no cost will also be streamlined. The rule updates and tightens the administrative review process that state agencies use to monitor federally-funded school meal programs. Ninety-five percent of the offices nationwide are already implementing the new review process.

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