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.
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.”