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A Healthier Generation Through Smart Snacks in Schools

Posted by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in Food and Nutrition
Feb 21, 2017

Today, USDA is furthering its commitment to improving the way that our youngsters eat by establishing science-based, common-sense standards for snacks sold in schools. The new “Smart Snacks in School” nutrition standards will positively impact more than 50 million American youngsters by ensuring that they are offered only healthier foods at school.

Based on feedback from nearly 250,000 parents, teachers, school food service professionals, and the food and beverage industry, we carefully balanced science-based nutrition standards, based on recommendations from the Institute of Medicine and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, with practical and flexible solutions to promote healthier eating at school.

I’m proud that we were able to develop meaningful standards that compliment the healthier school meals introduced last fall and make the healthy choice, the easy choice for students across the school food environment – by encouraging snacks that contain whole grains, low-fat dairy, fruits, vegetables or protein as their main ingredients, and placing sensible limits on sugar, fat, and salt.

We were able to achieve this goal while still giving schools flexibility to continue important traditions like fundraisers and bake sales, and preserve parents’ ability to send in homemade lunches and birthday cupcakes. The new standards are also appropriately limited in scope and do not apply to foods sold at venues such as after-school sporting events or weekend school plays.

But we also recognize that decisions on what standards make the most sense for their communities should happen on the local level, which is why we’ve set only minimum standards that act as a consistent national baseline to provide greater certainty for food and beverage companies and for schools. States and schools with more stringent standards than what we’ve released today will be able to maintain their own policies.

As with the new school meals, we know that change takes time. That is why schools and snack food companies will have an entire school year to prepare for the necessary changes, and we will offer training and technical assistance every step of the way. In fact, a wide range of healthy options are already available in most food and beverage companies’ portfolios, in response to the growing call by parents and schools for healthier snack foods.

The Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards are the next step in our efforts to improve the health of America’s young people, but we know there is more work to be done. USDA and our partners are working hard to ensure that all children have access to affordable, nutritious food, so that America’s next generation of leaders grow up healthy and strong.

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Category/Topic: Food and Nutrition

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Barbara Hupp
Jul 07, 2013

Can I have this information is Spanish. I especially need it to pass out to the illegal vendors who sell junk food in front of most LAUSD schools. They are unlicensed and don't follow the 500' city code rules. Inner city children are eating chips, sodas, sausages, pork rind, cookies, frozen ice with sugar syrup... Our Health & PE Committee needs help!

Dec 06, 2013

This is a great article and one i feel very pasionately about! Australia does something similar where we they are trying to establish nutritional guidelines for school canteens whereby there is a green, amber and red colour applied to foods. The green foods are those that should be most prevalant in school canteens. Like the american system, these foods would be things like low fat milk, fruit, vegetables and meusli bars; things which are low in fat, salts and kilojoules. It is difficult to pass up the bad food option when they are staring at you right in the face. What sane child goes for a banana instead of a packet of chips or a chocolate bar if the choice has to be made on the spot when they are spending money? I think if school canteens were to negate this choice we would all be much better off. I think it is so important that at a young age we are making the healthy choice the easy choice for children to make, this can only reflect positively in their later life, and if our health systems are going to come anywhere near withstanding the ageing population and current prevalance of ill health, prevention will be key! I think that if we can prevent ill health so easily, why don't we?

Jody Callender
Sep 03, 2014

Are students able to purchase a school lunch off campus during school hours?

HealthyYOU Vending
Oct 23, 2014

At HealthyYOU Vending, we believe that when it comes to school food offerings, candy, sugary drinks, greasy and calorie-laden junk foods are on their way to being a thing of the past. We are proud to support healthy food initiatives for kids, through free placement of a healthy vending machine in schools. With 21 different snack selections and 8 different drink selections available in every machine, there are plenty of healthy options that will appeal to students.

carol grodski
Mar 16, 2018

i am looking for a brochure or poster of 8x11
something simple white background that just has the requirements as they read not the above infographic hieroglyphics that say nothing
state the snack and beverage guidelines as they are and can be printed and understood by all thank you

Alexis stubble field
Aug 26, 2019

I think its stupid

Aug 26, 2019

I thinks its a little crazy but I can understand that they want kids to be more healthy

Tim A
Jan 16, 2020

I would like to use this in a youth recreation center. Who would I reach out to if I wanted to try to use these same regulations in our vending machines?

Ben Weaver
Jan 28, 2020

@Tim A - thank you for your inquiry. For more information about the requirements for all foods sold in schools participating in the federal school meal programs, please go here: For more information on other wellness-related policies in your state, the contact information for state agencies administering the school meal programs is here: We appreciate your interest in promoting the health and wellness of our nation’s children.

Isabella Wallace
Dec 10, 2020

I agree that healthy foods in schools is a good idea. But not all healthy foods taste good so that can make kids a little unsure about trying new things. If healthy foods are in the lunchroom and in the snack machines though I think over time kids will get use to eating it, at least while they are at school. It's sad that a lot of foods that are good for you like fruits and vegetables are sometimes more expensive that snack foods like chips and candy. I think this is why some families don't buy more healthy foods at home.

Linda Taylor MSM, RDN
Apr 19, 2021

Popcorn is not a reimbursable snack and neither are granola bars. We need to make healthy snacks more desirable, attractive, and flavorful.