Snack nutrition rules may change in local schools

CONYERS -- Students may soon no longer be able to purchase chips and candy bars at school due to new nutrition standards, but parents have a few more months to weigh in with their opinions.

At the end of June, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released highlights of the new "Smart Snacks in School" standards that are part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which requires to the USDA to establish nutrition standards for all food sold in schools.

"In the simplest terms, the USDA has taken the regulations that are already in place for school cafeteria standards and are now applying them to the entire schools," said Peggy Lawrence, school nutrition director for Rockdale County Public Schools.

Lawrence said the Smart Snacks in School standards have not yet been formally adopted and will likely not go into effect until the 2014-15 school year. The comment period for the new regulations is open until Oct. 28.

Just like the new guidelines for school lunches and breakfasts that were implemented in 2012-13, the Smart Snacks in School standards will require that any food sold in schools in school cafeterias, in vending machines, school stores and at snack bars must meet the following standards, according to the USDA:

-- Be a "whole grain-rich" grain product; or

-- Have as its first ingredient fruit, vegetable, dairy or protein food; or

-- Be a combination food that contains at least one-fourth cup fruit and/or vegetable; or

-- Contain 10 percent of the daily value of one of the nutrients of health concern outlined in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

The food items must also meet calorie, fat and sugar content requirements. For instance, snack items must be 200 calories or less. The total fat must be less than 35 percent of overall calories and the sugar limit must be less than 35 percent of the weight from the total sugars in the food.

Lawrence said RCPS has no centralized vending contracts and decisions about vending machines in schools are largely left up to the individual schools' principals. She pointed out that they must adhere to the federal Competitive Foods regulations, which do not allow food from vending machines to be sold during the times that breakfast and lunch are served in the schools' cafeterias. Schools' vending machines also had to be stocked with foods with a minimum nutritional value, according RCPS policy.

"Our principals have had the freedom to decide if they will have vending machines and how they will operate those vending machines," she said. "These standards will put some restrictions on that, but at this point we don't really know how those will impact them."

Lawrence said that while it is still unknown how the new Smart Snacks in School standards will affect individual schools, she does anticipate some minor changes will be made.

"My general opinion is that this will be a good thing to improve the overall health for our students," she said.

For more information about the Smart Snacks in School standards, visit www.fns.usda.gov. To comment on the new standards, visit www.regulations.gov and type in the name of the rule, "Nutrition Standards for All Foods Sold in School."


Elmo 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Several schools across the country are opting out of Michelle's folly lunch program because the kids won't eat it, and are fighting hunger throughout the classes.

Of course, Rockdale would never do that for fear of losing the government subsidy.



travelingman 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Elmo, I couldn't've said it better myself. Your post is both accurate and insightful. I hope others listen to you.


TheVillageDrunk 9 months, 2 weeks ago

My understanding is that the food programs in school are completely separate from the school itself and competes with the vending machines. I maybe wrong here, but doesn't the vending machine percentage of profits directly go to the schools where they are located? Somebody with more time on their hands can research that. Anyway, healthier options are a positive step in the right direction, especially when we are talking about a system with over 60% free/reduced. The school systems may want to try to introduce more education on health rather than just having a class called "Health", usually taught by coaches that are more concerned about their particular teams than the subject. Health is a concern in this country, especially in the underserved community. I would think that a school system or just individual schools would take a proactive approach and teach students the positives of healthy living. Isn't teaching and learning the purpose of schools? Like Master Yoda says "Do or do not. There is no try"


johndoemo_ 9 months, 2 weeks ago

yes the vending machine money goes to the principal's fund.


travelingman 9 months, 2 weeks ago

You are absolutely correct. So do a lot of other financial ventures.


CWD 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Things sure changed since my school years. We had no free lunch or no other freebees in school. How-ever, those of us without money did have the opportunity to eat lunch at no cost by working in the cafeteria scullery, cleaning trays and eating utensils, sweeping floors and keeping the tables clean. We had pride and self worth in doing this instead of getting a handout. We did not have vending machines in schools for the simple fact, eating in school wasn't allowed except during lunch or after school hours and then, only in designated areas. I was a skinny kid living in government housing but was happy, played a lot and never recall being starved. Hungry? Of course. What growing boy wasn't? --- Thanks for letting me have my say.


heresyafacts 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Considering that 70% of the kids at RCPS are on free/reduced breakfast/lunch programs, I don't understand why there are vending machines in the school at all. Who's using them?

If we're going to be 'fair' -- as I'm told repeatedly that we must be -- then it would only be 'fair' to remove vending machines so that the poor 70% won't have their noses pressed up against the glass, watching all you rich folk get sodas and chips. Because if you don't have money for lunch, you don't have money for vending machines, right? So stop tempting them; the 70% need that spare change for their smartphone bills.

Need a snack? Bring it from home. We got along fine without vending machines when I was in school, no problem. It's called planning ahead, and it's an important life lesson.


Frustrated 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Seems to me that if the vending machines were removed then the kids would eat in the cafeteria instead of eating snacks from the machines. The schools do get some of the money from the machines but which is more important the kids or selling snacks?


Elmo 9 months, 2 weeks ago

The schools get plenty of money from the Feds for serving mooshell's notion of a "one-size-fits-all menu, and 70% of the kids eat free, and you're lamenting the chump-change the school "might be" losing from a few vending machines.

I'd rather my kid eat a pack of crackers and a coke than go hungry all day, because I sure wouldn't force them to eat some the stuff that the government mandates.

Wouldn't bother me if the other 30% whose parents actually have to pay for their lunch would boycott the whole program.


Rob 9 months, 2 weeks ago

So New York City just dropped this ridiculous Michelle Obama food plan and now Rockdale thinks it's a GOOD idea? God help us!


travelingman 9 months, 2 weeks ago

You are spot on correct. I wonder if there are some financial kickbacks in supporting the program. If you aren't sure of something, follow the money.


Colin 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Don't our high schools have more important things to worry about than micromanaging what vendors put in the snack machines. How about we let the schools worry about the students' literacy and numeracy and let the parents worry about dictating their kids' eating habits.


VPublicola 9 months, 2 weeks ago

"the Smart Snacks in School standards will require that any food sold in schools in school cafeterias, in vending machines, school stores and at snack bars must meet the following standards, according to the USDA"

Sounds to me that this will also apply to 'concession stands' on school properties that are(?) operated by school organizations.

Here's a better idea for the "hope & change" delusional crowd - first make these standards apply to SNAP and food stamps. Anyone notice the unhealthy junk that can be purchased under these looter programs!


heresyafacts 9 months, 1 week ago

"make these standards apply to SNAP and food stamps"

That is the BEST idea I've heard yet.


Spydee 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Having grown children who DID attend RC schools(when the student body was respectful) I had no idea about Michelle Obummers " food plan"... I wonder what her 2 pampered girls eat....I wonder what they eat on their MANY vacations that WE pay for. Just when i thought that Obama had nothing else to RUIN !.... He will be out of office(THANK GOD) and WE will be STUCK with ALL of the CRAP that he "changed"....


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