New federal guidelines require healthier snacks in schools by July 1

HISD students will notice fewer candy bars, potato chips, and soda sold on their campuses when the new school year begins.

Under new federal guidelines established last year by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “Smart Snacks in School” nutrition standards, the rules now regulate all foods sold outside the school meals program on campus and at any time during the school day.

The USDA rules set restrictions on calories, fat, sugar and sodium consumption. According to the guidelines, items will have to contain fewer than 200 calories with no more than 230 milligrams of salt. Food items will also have to be either whole-grain-rich, made of fruits or vegetables or contain 10 percent of the recommended daily value of either calcium, potassium, vitamin D or dietary fiber.

“The new standards promote increased consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and non-fat and low-fat dairy, which students need for lifelong health,” said HISD dietitian Mandie Oceguera. “Smart Snacks in School assures that our students receive consistent messages about good nutrition throughout the campus.”

The revised rules are a part of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 and will go into effect July 1.

“For the past two years, due to the changing regulations, [HISD Food Services] has been adjusting our menus and working with vendors to provide qualifying food items, so changes to the menu will be minimal,” said HISD Food Services Senior Administrator Audene Chung.

Read more about the USDA’s ‘Smart Snacks in School’ nutritional standards

The standards also apply to food sold from outside vendors and school stores, vending machines, snack bars and at fundraisers. Regulations will mostly affect high schools that sell a la carte items, including outside fast food that does not meet national school lunch program nutrition standards and vending machines out of compliance. The regulations will not affect snacks or lunches brought from home.

Beverages also fall under the nutritional standards. Sports drinks that contain high amounts of sugar are prohibited, but the low-calorie versions will be available for sale in high schools. Low-fat and fat-free milk, no-calorie flavored waters and 100% fruit and vegetable juice are permitted. Water must be made available to students for free where meals are served, according to the guidelines.

Birthday parties and celebrations are not affected, and parents can continue to deliver treats for special occasions to schools. Fundraising events, such as bake sales, are permitted if the food is sold on campus and meets the “Smart Snacks in School” regulations. However, if the bake sale is after the school day, on weekends or off campus, the rule would not apply.

State agencies will monitor schools closely to make sure administrators are in compliance with standards through the Texas Department of Agriculture administrative review. Administrators who violate the guidelines are subject to fines or citations.

“Students learn about nutrition and healthful eating not just in the classroom but from the foods they see offered on our campuses,” said Bettina Siegel, HISD parent and School Health Advisory Committee (SHAC) member. “So, given that so many children in HISD are affected by obesity, it’s important for school administrators, parents and students to work together to help schools offer healthier choices.”

5 thoughts on “New federal guidelines require healthier snacks in schools by July 1

  1. Rosa Watson

    I am so excited to read and hear about the “Smart Snacks in School”. It is so vitally important for our children to get a good foundation pertaining to their health and to be heatlh conscience.

  2. Danny

    Thank god I’m with the class of 2014. This is unbelievable. I mean yes, obesity is a problem (I myself am male and weighed over 210 lbs., now around 150-160 lbs.). But taking away junk food on campuses? I have had first-hand experience with administrators trying to ban junk food in the past (grossly unhealthy yet often delicious snacks such as potato chips and sodas). And it has NOT worked. I mean, sure, these are Federal laws, but I have first-hand experience, and let me tell you… It had the same black market effect as prohibition. I’m not even joking.

    Even some teachers were becoming black market snack dealers, so much so that the school store had to be reopened to prevent under-the-table dealings that caused the school and/or administrators to face some type of discipline if they didn’t get it under control (the students never found out exactly why the administrators suddenly worked to solve the problem).

    But seriously, government/State of Texas/HISD/whomever thought this was a good idea? This will amplify the problem tenfold. I mean sure, trying to create “awareness” like First Lady Obama did may not seem like a solution, but causing a black market effect for junk food? This is hilarious at first glance, but when the burden of having to monitor, regulate, and punish or commend schools becomes too much for HISD and other large districts across the state, policymakers, politcians, and even your friendly neighborhood snack dealer are going to scratch their heads, saying “Like, this seemed like a good idea, right?”

  3. Concerned Parent

    School food is already absolutely tasteless and almost inedible, so now they are going after food sold outside of the meal program. Instead of making fresh fruits and vegetable available, the “snack” options will be diet food, much of which contains sugar substitutes that are more dangerous than sugar like aspartame, which is a possible carcinogen. I won’t even get started on preservatives, but that’s all “okay” under the “Smart Snack” guidelines.

    How does the federal government even have authority to regulate food outside of its programs? You can educate people, but you cannot force people to eat what the government thinks is healthy food. I hope that more parents opt to have their students bring lunches and snacks. That is what I plan to do for my child.

    I think districts around the country should consider dropping the federal food program. The revenue that could be brought in from food that actually tastes good would make up for the federal subsidy and cover the costs of subsidizing meals for lower-income students.

  4. RL

    Dismissing a child’s ability to choose what he/she wants to eat for a meal has got to be more damaging in the long-term than a bag a chips and a soda.

    Frankly, if we truly intend to make a positive difference in the hearts and minds of our public school kids, why not offer a health class that incorporates nutrition and exercise.

  5. Rozett

    I agree with Danny and concerned parent. The kids just bring it from home. I see It first hand. What’s next, are we going to suspend kids for unhealthy snacks? Government is far too involved in making decisions for us and forcing their beliefs on everyone else. Do they really think we’re going to have successful fundraisers selling a bag of carrots or celery when we have hormonal youth craving caffeine and chocolate. Get real!!! We have bigger problems, then what’s in the vending machine.

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