USDA Proposes New Rules for School Snacks

02/1/2013

The fifth goal of the Michigan Good Food Charter calls for schools to meet the Michigan Nutrition Standards for both school meals and for food sold in schools outside of the meal programs.  Efforts to implement these voluntary state standards have been, to a large degree, postponed while awaiting new federal standards, which would be mandatory.

New USDA regulations for school meals went into effect for the 2012-13 school year. Proposed rules for other foods, however, were just released this month.

On February 1, 2013, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced new proposed standards for food in schools outside of the federally supported school lunch and breakfast programs. Known as “Smart Snacks in School,” the proposed rule covers food from vending machines, school stores and a la carte lines.

A few highlights of the proposal include:

· Promoting the availability of healthy snack foods and limiting snack foods with excess fat, sugar or sodium.
· Allowing variation by age group for some factors.
· Exempting foods sold after the school day and allowing for treats during celebrations.
· Allowing states that have stronger standards to maintain their own policies.
· Providing at least one year after the final rule is published before requiring implementation.

The USDA is providing a 60-day comment period on the proposal. Knowing that the snack and beverage industries will be weighing in on the proposal, healthy school food advocates are encouraging parents and others to show their support for strong guidelines that promote health. Feedback on the draft rule can be provided through www.regulations.gov.

Once the Smart Snacks in School rule is finalized, Michigan schools will have clear requirements for all food in schools. Since the Michigan Nutrition Standards will likely end up being stronger and more comprehensive than the federal standards, school administrators, advocates and food service staff can then use the state guidelines to make even further strides toward creating healthy school food environments.