No more junk food snacks in school, Michelle Obama cheers

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The days of schools offering high calorie cookies, candy, and sugary beverages for snacks will soon be over.

The Agriculture Department Thursday announced new nutrition standards for snacks in schools, continuing the revamp of the American student’s diet in school that the agency implemented last year to groans from students and some lawmakers.

The new “Smart Snacks in School” standards, like the new school meal standards that took effect recently, require schools to stock their vending machines, snack bars, and cafeteria a la carte options with healthier fare like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat items and lean proteins.

The items must meet nutritional requirements for fat, sugar, grain, and sodium content.  Snack and a la carte items must also contain less than 200 calories and entrees sold a la carte must be less than 350 calories.

Also off the snack menu are sugary drinks. Instead, water, low fat milk and juices will be the primary liquids available in elementary schools and middle schools. High school students will also be able to obtain diet sodas.

The new standards are required under the Michelle Obama-backed Healthy and Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010. The first lady applauded the standards shortly after Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the interim final rule.

“Many parents are working hard every day to make sure they provide healthy, balanced meals and snacks to their kids.  Unfortunately, we don’t always have control over the snacks our kids have access to when they’re away from home,” the first lady said in a statement.

“That’s why, as a mom myself, I am so excited that schools will now be offering healthier choices to students and reinforcing the work we do at home to help our kids stay healthy,” she added.

USDA notes that the new snack requirements as an “important component” of the first lady’s “Let’s Move” anti-childhood obesity campaign.”

“Nothing is more important than the health and well-being of our children,” Vilsack added in a statement. “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.”

According to the USDA, the requirements will not impact snacks offered at birthdays and other schools celebrations. Bake sales, fundraiser food items and afterschool food sales at functions like sporting events also will not have to comply.

Schools and food and beverage suppliers have one year to come in compliance with the new requirements. The USDA says they will offer training and technical support for the program.

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