FoodFacts.com followed the first phase of the new USDA school cafeteria standards last summer, as public schools throughout the United States revamped their menu offerings for our children. New menus offered meals with reduced sodium content, less saturated fat and trans fat. In addition whole grains became standard and fat-free and low-fat milk products replaced their full-fat counterparts. Today, the USDA announced phase two of their healthier school cafeteria efforts, Smart Snacks in School.
These new nutrition standards extend the original efforts, replacing candy bars and potato chips in school cafeterias with granola bars and baked chips.
In 2010, The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act removed junk foods and high calorie beverages from school vending machines. Subsequently, the USDA set up nutrition standards for all foods sold in American schools. The new “Smart Snacks in School” nutrition standards will be published later this week in the Federal Register.
The new standards are based on existing standards implemented in thousands of schools across the country and recommendations from the Institute of Medicine. The aim of the new nutrition standards is to promote much healthier eating in American schools.
The “Smart Snacks in School” plans include:
- Encouraging healthier foods, such as vegetables, fruits, lean protein, and whole grains low in fat.
- Providing food items that give children all the nutrients they need, ensuring they are low in fats, sugars and sodium.
- Varying standards, such as portion size and caffeine content, according to age group.
- Allowing parents to still make packed lunches for their children and certain school traditions, like bake sales.
- Giving school food and drink companies a full year to make the changes. The USDA will offer help in training and technical assistance.
- Ensuring that the standards are only implemented and enforced on school campuses during normal school hours. Food and drinks sold on campus during special events after school hours don’t need to follow the new guidelines.
- Allowing states and schools that already have stricter policies to maintain them.
The USDA says it is doing its best to improve the nutritional standards of the food kids are eating in schools, as well as providing families with advice on what a healthy meal is. This policy and those like it are aimed at helping the childhood obesity epidemic.
FoodFacts.com is encouraged by the steps the USDA has taken to improve the quality and nutritional value of the foods made available to our children in schools. We are pleased to see new initiatives that continue the strides that have already been made to help our children make healthier food choices during their school day. It has always been FoodFacts.com’s mission to bring greater nutritional awareness to every generation. While the USDA is taking much-needed actions to improve nutritional quality of the foods served in our schools, educated consumers everywhere can help spread nutritional awareness to every generation of our population. Helping our kids understand what’s on nutrition labels and ingredient lists for the products they consume will help take the USDA’s initiatives even further.