It takes a village to raise a child, many believe, and the United States Department of Agriculture appears to believe that this idea extends to our schools and our children's snacks. With the proposal of the "Smart Snacks in School" rule, the USDA began the first step in creating national nutrition standards for all foods sold in schools, in accordance to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. The act requires the USDA to not only establish nutrition standards for federally-supported school meals programs, but for all foods sold in schools.
With obesity rampant in today's society, some feel that the program is a good first step; others feel the government is overreaching. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made a case for the proposed rule, stating in a release:
"Parents and teachers work hard to instill healthy eating habits in our kids, and these efforts should be supported when kids walk through the schoolhouse door. Good nutrition lays the groundwork for good health and academic success. 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."
Highlights of the proposal include:
- More of the foods we should encourage. Promoting availability of healthy snack foods with whole grains, low fat dairy, fruits, vegetables or protein foods as their main ingredients.
- Less of the foods we should avoid. Ensuring that snack 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 beverage portion size and caffeine content.
- Flexibility for important traditions. Preserving the ability for parents to send in bagged lunches of their choosing or treats for activities such as birthday parties, holidays, and other celebrations; and allowing schools to continue traditions like occasional fundraisers and bake sales.
- 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 an afterschool sporting event or other activity 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.
- Significant transition period for schools and industry. The standards will not go into effect until at least one full school year after public comment is considered and an implementing rule is published to ensure that schools and vendors have adequate time to adapt.
The public is encouraged to review the proposal and to provide comments and information for consideration by the USDA during the 60-day public comment period.
What do you think, Huliq readers? Is the proposed "Smart Snacks in School" rule necessary or overreaching?
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