‘A game changer for our youngsters’: USDA’s new snacks rule banishes junk food from schools

By Elaine WATSON

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition Usda

‘A game changer for our youngsters’: USDA’s new snacks rule
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has released tough new rules on ‘competitive’ foods sold in school vending machines, cafes and snack bars as part of its commitment to improve child nutrition under The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

The rules - which come into effect next summer - apply to the 100,000+ elementary, middle and high schools that accept assistance from the National School Lunch Program.

They stipulate that all foods sold in school must be a ‘whole grain-rich’ grain product; OR have as the first ingredient a fruit, a vegetable, a dairy product, or a protein food; OR be a combination food that contains at least ¼ cup of fruit and/or vegetable; OR contain 10% of the DV of calcium, potassium, vitamin D, or dietary fiber.

Calorie limits:

  • Snacks: ≤ 200 calories
  • Entrées: ≤ 350 calories

Sodium limits:

  • Snacks: ≤ 230 mg**
  • Entrées: ≤ 480 mg

Fat limits:

  • Total fat: ≤35% of calories
  • Saturated fat: < 10% of calories
  • Trans fat: 0g

Sugar limit:

  • ≤ 35% of weight from total sugars in foods

Water, low-fat milk, 100% fruit juice…

children-istock-Ann Marie Kurtz

As for beverages, any school may sell plain water (with or without carbonation), unflavored low fat milk, unflavored or flavored fat free milk and milk alternatives permitted by NSLP/SBP, 100% fruit or veg juice and 100% fruit or veg juice diluted with water (with or without carbonation), and no added sweeteners.

Elementary schools may sell up to 8oz portions, while middle schools and high schools may sell up to 12oz portions of milk and juice.  

The standards also allow additional diet and low calorie beverages for high school students.

The rules do not apply to foods brought to school

children drinking-istock-JoeLena

The rules do not apply to foods brought to school in bagged lunches, or for birthday parties, or to food sold during non-school hours, off-campus fundraising events, sporting events or school plays. They only affect foods that are sold on school campuses during the school day.

CSPI: Companies won't be able to just fortify snacks with cheap nutrients to qualify them as healthy

The rules were welcomed as a significant step toward improving childhood nutrition by stakeholders from the American Heart Association to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, while USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack called them a “game changer for our youngsters​.”

CSPI Director of Nutrition Policy Margo Wootan noted that “after a phase-in period, companies won't be able to just fortify snacks with cheap nutrients to qualify them as healthy; all school foods will have to contain food―some fruit, vegetables, whole grains, or another healthy food component.”

Click here​ to read the new rules in full. 

Click here​ to read our interview with H.U.M.A.N. Healthy Vending founder Sean Kelly. 


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1 comment

New SeaSnakPak Sashimi Quality Albacore Tuna

Posted by Gunther Mothes,

We have a new vascular/heart healthy snack/lunch food item that surpasses the new USDA Rules on foods sold in school vending machines. Very high in potassium, omega 3 & 6 fatty acids, selenium. No preservatives, MSG, soybean, or soy sauce, no artificial coloring, or flavoring.
Consista of one 3oz. can of Tuna, or Salmon, in pure Spring Water, 12 whole grain crackers,(no gluten) lite mayo, and low calorie relish, plastic utensils, etc. All packed in triangular shaped plastic see-through container designed for the new school healthy vending machines.

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