USDA proposes new standards for school snacks

February 1, 2013
(Rick Wilking/Reuters)
(Rick Wilking/Reuters)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday unveiled proposals for new national standards on the snacking options that schools provide.

The proposed regulations, mandated by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids act of 2010, would limit junk food and set minimum nutritional requirements for the foods and beverages schools offer in vending machines or snack bars.

The standards call for snacks with lower fat, sugar and sodium content and items that provide more of the nutrients thought to promote healthy development.

Nearly one third of American children are overweight or obese, putting them at risk for preventable diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, according to the USDA.

The proposed standards would not affect the breakfasts and lunches served up in cafeterias, which the USDA dealt with last year with stricter guidelines for school meal options.

Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement Friday that the proposed snack guidelines would complement the recently imposed school-meal standards “so the healthy choice is the easy choice for our kids.”

The proposed standards would not apply to treats that parents provide for birthday parties or holidays, nor the foods sold at after-school sporting events. They also would not affect the items parents put in their kids’ lunch boxes.

The proposed rules will be published in the Federal Register sometime next week, according to the USDA. The public will have 60 days from that point to comment on the proposals before the changes take effect.

Thirty-nine states and a multitude of local school districts have their own regulations in place relating to snack foods and beverages, according to the USDA.

The federal proposals would set a baseline, but not override stricter standards from local and state jurisdictions.

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Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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Josh Hicks · February 1, 2013