USDA unveils healthy snack proposals for nation’s schools

Caroline May | Reporter

The United States Department of Agriculture introduced its proposed standards for snacks allowed in the nation’s public schools Friday.

The new standards come as part of the Michelle Obama-backed Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which mandated the USDA set requirements for all the food provided by schools. The “Smart Snacks in School” proposal is a portion of that effort.

Under the proposed snack guidelines, food sold in schools must be either a fruit, vegetable, dairy product; “protein food”; food with 50 percent or more whole grains by weight or primary ingredient; combination food with 1/4 cup of fruit or vegetables; or contain 10 percent calcium, potassium, vitamin D, or fiber.

Further, under the proposed rules the USDA will require the items be low fat (exemptions being food with nuts and reduced fat cheese), low sodium, and low in sugar. Snacks must also meet a calorie limit. (RELATED: USDA takes heat for proposed lunch regs, particularly from student athletes)

“Good nutrition lays the groundwork for good health and academic success,” Agriculture Secretary Tim Vilsack said in a statement. “Providing healthy options throughout school cafeterias, vending machines, and snack bars will complement the gains made with the new, healthy standards for school breakfast and lunch so the healthy choice is the easy choice for our kids.”

Beverages will also be subject to the calorie restrictions, with just water, low fat milk, and 100 percent juices available to elementary and middle school children, and additional calorie-free carbonated beverages available to high school students. All come with restricted portion limits.

Foods sold after school, or for fundraisers and activities, would be exempt from the requirements.

According to the USDA, the proposal will be published in the Federal Register soon and open to public comment for 60 days.

The initial school lunch nutrition standards introduced by the USDA last year were met with severe criticism from students, parents, and some lawmakers who said the requirements were not enough to sustain youths throughout the entire school day.

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