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Smart Snacks in School: New USDA Standards Aim to Ensure Healthy School Foods

First Lady and Others Applaud Efforts to Make America's School Environment Healthier for Kids

"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. 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." First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama

"Prodded by parents who rightly want schools to support their efforts to raise healthy kids, we've made steady progress in improving the nutrition environment in American schools. In 2002, Congress created the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program to provide free fresh fruits and vegetables to high poverty elementary schools. In the last several years, schools have worked hard to improve the nutritional quality of school meals. And now, with the release of a final rule on smart snacks, we'll put in place common sense nutrition guidelines for snack foods and beverages sold in school stores, vending machines, and snack bars, closing a loophole that for too long has undermined the health and nutrition of our kids." Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA)

"We commend the USDA for its thorough work in developing the first-ever national standards for all foods and beverages in schools which largely follow the guidelines implemented voluntarily by our industry beginning in 2006. As a result of the industry's voluntary efforts, we have reduced beverage calories shipped to schools by 90 percent." The American Beverage Association

"Two thumbs up to USDA for issuing the interim final rule on national nutrition standards for 'smart snacks' in school. Now when we teach kids about good nutrition in the classroom, our lessons will no longer be contradicted by easy access to vending machines peddling candy and empty calorie beverages in the hallways." Alliance for a Healthier Generation CEO Howell Wechsler, Ed.D, MPH

"I commend the U.S. Department of Agriculture for taking this momentous step to bring healthier snacks and drinks to students across the nation. The updated standards are critical to addressing the nation's childhood obesity epidemic and helping our most vulnerable children get the foods and drinks they need to grow up strong and healthy." Robert Wood Johnson Foundation President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD

"The retired generals and admirals of Mission: Readiness support the U.S. Department of Agriculture's efforts to improve the quality of snack foods and beverages sold in schools because of their potential impact on the nation's obesity crisis and, ultimately, the pool of young adults who are eligible for military service." Mission: Readiness

"We commend the USDA for issuing strong nutritional requirements for all snacks and beverages sold in schools during the school day. For the first time in our country's history, we now have national nutrition standards for all food sold to kids during the school day. When these new standards take effect at the start of the 2014-2015 school year, they will complement the positive impact we're already seeing from the school meal standards implemented last year." American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network President Chris Hansen

"The new USDA guidelines for competitive foods will make a huge dent in the 400 billion calories from junk foods our kids consume at school every year. For the first time in 30 years, we have a robust nutrition framework for the foods and beverages sold in school vending machines, stores, snack bars and a la carte lines. These strong standards will not only transform the food and beverages offered in schools, they will help create optimal learning environments where our children can thrive." American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown

"Pediatricians commend USDA for taking a step forward today to make sure that all foods and beverages sold in schools, including snacks, are healthy for children. Many children eat up to half of their daily calories at school. Pediatricians would like to see those calories come from healthy foods that help children thrive. Good nutrition is critical to children's health, development, and ability to learn and grow." American Academy of Pediatrics President Thomas K. McInerny, MD, FAAP

"As a result of the updated standards announced by USDA, children will be protected from the sugar drinks and junk food that tempt them through school vending machines, a la carte lines in cafeterias, and school stores and snack bars. USDA's action is much needed given children's generally unhealthy diets and high rates of obesity." Center for Science in the Public Interest Director of Nutrition Policy Margaret Wootan

"Low-income children will especially benefit from these strong standards. When peer pressure and stigma drive low-income students to purchase less healthy appealing competitive foods, instead of eating healthy school meals, they lose out nutritionally in a much bigger way than their more affluent peers, and their families lose financially." Food Research and Action Center President Jim Weill

" members across the country have sent in stories calling for stronger nutrition guidelines. It's time to get junk food out of schools so kids have healthy options and finalizing the Smart Snacks in School rule is an important next step down the path toward having increasingly healthy kids in our nation." Executive Director Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner

"Millions of students currently have widespread access to snacks and beverages that are high in sugar, fat, and salt, but limited access to nutritious options such as fruits and vegetables in school stores, snack bars, and vending machines. With many students consuming up to half of their daily calories at school, these new standards represent the kind of positive change we need to help reduce obesity rates among children and teens." Kids' Safe and Healthful Foods Project Director Jessica Donze Black

"BTG congratulates USDA on its issuance of updated standards that will ensure that healthier snacks and beverages are available to all students, in all schools nationwide. These standards are the next critical step to ensuring healthier school environments for our nation's children." The Bridging the Gap (BTG) Research Program - Institute for Health Research and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago

"This is a victory for children and teenagers everywhere, and it couldn't have happened without YOU. Nearly 250,000 people earlier this year wrote to the USDA in support of the proposed guidelines. Because of people like you, the USDA knows how important these guidelines are to kids' health.", a project of the American Heart Association

"Increasing the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables as snacks in schools will go a long way towards creating a healthy school food environment and improving nutrition for 32 million school children. In addition, this will drive opportunities for increased produce sales to schools, especially for fresh and fresh-cut fruits and vegetables in convenient single servings." United Fresh Produce Association Vice President of Nutrition and Health Dr. Lorelei DiSogra

USDA is focused on improving childhood nutrition and empowering families to make healthier food choices by providing science-based information and advice, while expanding the availability of healthy food. Highlights of the Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards include:

  • More of the foods we should encourage. Like the new school meals, the standards require healthier foods, more whole grains, low fat dairy, fruits, vegetables and leaner protein.
  • Less of the foods we should avoid. Food items are lower in fat, sugar, and sodium and provide more of the nutrients kids need.
  • Targeted standards. Allowing variation by age group for factors such as portion size and caffeine content.
  • Flexibility for important traditions. Preserving the ability for parents to send their kids to school with homemade lunches or treats for activities such as birthday parties, holidays, and other celebrations; and allowing schools to continue traditions like fundraisers and bake sales.
  • Ample time for implementation. Schools and food and beverage companies will have an entire school year to make the necessary changes, and USDA will offer training and technical assistance every step of the way.
  • Reasonable limitations on when and where the standards apply. Ensuring that standards only affect foods that are sold on school campus during the school day. Foods sold at afterschool sporting events or other activities will not be subject to these requirements.
  • Flexibility for state and local communities. Allowing significant local and regional autonomy by only establishing minimum requirements for schools. States and schools that have stronger standards than what is being proposed will be able to maintain their own policies.

America's students now have healthier and more nutritious school meals due to improved nutrition standards implemented as a result of the historic Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

Collectively these policies and actions will help combat child hunger and obesity and improve the health and nutrition of the nation's children; a top priority for the Obama Administration. The interim final rule announced today is an important component of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative to combat the challenge of childhood obesity.


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