Gov’t Unveils New Snack Standards for Schools: Donuts Out, Fruit Cups In

By Elizabeth Harrington | June 28, 2013 | 1:38pm EDT

(AP Photo)

( – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) unveiled new requirements for snacks and vending machines in public schools on Thursday, banning donuts and soda-pop in favor of fruit cups and flavored water.

Stemming from First Lady Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity campaign, public  schools will have a year to comply with nutrition standards that include “More of the foods we should encourage” and “Less of the foods we should avoid.”

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, championed by Mrs. Obama, established the new standards, which go beyond school menus to include all food items sold in schools.

"Nothing is more important than the health and well-being of our children," said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack on Thursday. "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."

Vilsack announced an interim final rule issued by the USDA, which is “an important component of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative to combat the challenge of childhood obesity.”

The announcement came the same day a congressional hearing revealed that nutrition standards for school menus are causing problems, driving food waste up and kids away from the school lunch line.

The new effort will ensure school vending machines and snack bars will “include healthy choices,” mandating that any snack item must be below 200 calories.

First Lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joined children in the lunch line at Parklawn Elementary School in Alexandria, Va. on Wednesday, January 25, 2012. On the menu were ground turkey tacos, Mexican brown rice and black bean and corn salad accompanied by mixed fruit. (Photo: USDA/Bob Nichols)

In a graphic showing what school snacks will look like before and after the standards, the USDA touts that chocolate sandwich cookies, fruit snacks, donuts, chocolate bars and regular cola will be out,  replaced with peanuts, light popcorn, low-fat tortilla chips, granola bars, fruit cups and no-calorie flavored water.

“The new standards will allow schools to offer healthier snack foods for our children, while limiting junk food served to students,” the USDA said.

The agency says students will “still be able to buy snacks,” but ones that “meet common-sense standards.”

The USDA assures that chips will still be allowed, only in “healthier versions such as baked tortilla chips, reduced-fat corn chips, and baked potato chips.”

Beverage standards are broken up by age.  In elementary and middle school only non-fat or low-fat milk is allowed, as well as water and 100%  fruit or vegetable juice.

High school students can have carbonated beverages, but they must contain less than 10 calories per 20 fluid ounces, effectively banning soda.

Other standards include grain products that must contain 50 % or more whole grains, and only food items with less than 35% calories from total fat, 10% saturated fat and zero grams of trans fat.

Students can also still get sugar-free chewing gum from the vending machine, which is exempt from the standards, although they may not be allowed to chew it in class.

Packed lunches and fundraisers will also be exempt.  States will decide how many bake sales schools can hold that do not abide by the standards.  The USDA said it has “sought to balance the needs of schools to conduct occasional fundraisers.”

According to the rule, the regulation will have a projected nominal cost of $125.7 million over five years.  Beginning in fiscal year 2014, the provisions will cost $23.5 million, rising to $26.8 million by 2018.

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