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New Snack Standards Proposed For Schools by the USDA

Posted on Feb 04, 2013 by Maggie LaBarbera


The USDA and Food and Nutrition Services has just released their proposed nutritional standards for snack foods in schools.  This is part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 passed back in 2010.

The USDA will formerly be announcing a 60 day comment period in which you are invited to share your comments, ideas and feedback regarding these foods standards.  Our children need better food, healthier food choices in their schools.  Voice your support to our government.  This is so important and your comments and ideas will help make the difference for millions of children across America.  You will be able to share your comments at  Familiarize yourself with the proposed nutrition standards listed below and be ready to share your comments, proposed changes and support.


Highlights of USDA's proposal include*:

  • More of the foods we should encourage. Promoting availability of healthy snack foods with whole grains, low fat dairy, fruits, vegetables or protein foods as their main ingredients.
  • Less of the foods we should avoid. Ensuring that snack food items are lower in fat, sugar, and sodium and provide more of the nutrients kids need.
  • Targeted standards. Allowing variation by age group for factors such as beverage portion size and caffeine content.
  • Flexibility for important traditions. Preserving the ability for parents to send in bagged lunches of their choosing or treats for activities such as birthday parties, holidays, and other celebrations; and allowing schools to continue traditions like occasional fundraisers and bake sales.
  • Reasonable limitations on when and where the standards apply. Ensuring that standards only affect foods that are sold on school campus during the school day. Foods sold at an afterschool sporting event or other activity will not be subject to these requirements.
  • Flexibility for state and local communities. Allowing significant local and regional autonomy by only establishing minimum requirements for schools. States and schools that have stronger standards than what is being proposed will be able to maintain their own policies.
  • Significant transition period for schools and industry. The standards will not go into effect until at least one full school year after public comment is considered and an implementing rule is published to ensure that schools and vendors have adequate time to adapt.

Read the requirements quoted from the USDA document*.

National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program: Nutrition Standards for All Foods Sold in School as Required by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010

Food Requirements
Under the proposed rule, any food sold in schools must:
(1) Be either a fruit, a vegetable, a dairy product, a protein food, a “whole-grain rich” grain product (50% or more whole grains by weight or have whole grains as the first ingredient), or a combination food that contains at least 1/4 cup of fruit or vegetable; 
(2) Contain 10% of the Daily Value (DV) of a nutrient cited as a public health concern in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) (calcium, potassium, vitamin D, or fiber).
Additionally, foods sold must meet a range of calorie and nutrient requirements:
Total fat must be ≤35% of calories; saturated fat must be <10% of calories; and trans fat must be 0g as stated on the label. Exemptions are provided for reduced fat cheese; nuts and nut butters without other ingredients and seafood with no added fat.
Snack items shall contain ≤200 milligrams of sodium. For entrée items, sodium levels must be ≤480 milligrams per portion, for non-NSLP/SBP entrée items.
For total sugar levels the proposal includes two alternatives: one is ≤35% of calories and the other is ≤35% of weight. 
Exemptions are provided for fruits and vegetables packed in juice or extra-light syrup and for certain yogurts.
Snack items have a limit on calories of ≤200 calories per portion.
Non- NSLP/SBP entrée items have a calorie limit of ≤350 calories.
The proposal includes two alternatives to exempt one set of foods from the food
requirements – NSLP/SBP entrees and side dishes sold a la carte. The first alternative would subject NSLP/SBP menu items only to the fat and sugar standards with no restrictions regarding timeframes for the service of such items sold a la carte. 
The second alternative would exempt any menu item served as part of the NSLP or SBP, subject to specific timeframe restrictions as outlined in the proposed rule (the day that they are served in a meal or within 4 operating days of service).
Beverage requirements
Under the proposal, all schools may sell plain water, plain low fat milk, plain or flavored fat free milk and milk alternatives permitted by NSLP/SBP, and 100% fruit/vegetable juice.  Portion sizes of milk and juice vary by the age of students. 
  • Elementary schools may sell up to 8-ounce portions. 
  • Middle schools and high schools may sell up to 12-ounce portions.
Beyond this, the proposal offers additional beverage options in high schools. These include 20 ounce servings or less for calorie-free, flavored and/or unflavored carbonated water and other 7 calorie-free beverages that comply with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standard of <5 cals/serving.
Additionally, the proposal would allow 12 ounce servings of other beverages within a specified calorie limit. The proposal offers two alternatives for this limit. The first is ≤ 40 cals/8 oz serving (or ≤ 60 cals/12 oz serving), and the second is 50 cals/8 oz serving (or 75 cals/12 oz serving).
Such beverages shall not be available in the meal service area during the meal service periods.

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