New USDA School Guidelines

Sugary sodas and candy bars are out, but birthday cupcakes are still safe

In an effort to provide students with more access to healthy food, on Friday the USDA released its proposed guidelines for nutritional standards for snack foods sold in schools.

According to The New York Times, the new guidelines would limit the amount of fat, salt, and sugar in snacks and promote fruit and low-fat and whole-grain snack options. But the new guidelines would only apply to food sold during the school day and do not apply to food brought by the students or eaten at after-school events. Kids can still bring birthday treats, and schools can still sell candy for fundraisers.

"Parents and teachers work hard to instill healthy eating habits in our kids, and these efforts shouldn’t be undermined when kids walk through the schoolhouse door," said agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack. "Providing healthy options throughout school cafeterias, vending machines and snack bars will complement the gains made with the new, healthy standards for school breakfast and lunch, so the healthy choice is the easy choice for our kids."

According to Reuters, snacks would be limited to a maximum of 200 calories and no more than 35 percent of their calories should come from fat or sugar.

The guidelines also cover beverages. All schools could sell water, low-fat and fat-free milk, and 100-percent fruit and vegetable juices in portion sizes that vary according to the student’s age. High schools would be allowed to sell carbonated beverages, but only those with five calories or less per serving.

Reuters reports that the soft drink industry is fine with the new guidelines and says that the number of calories shipped to school vending machines was already down by 90 percent from six years ago.

The guidelines are open for comment for 60 days; the public can comment on the proposal at www.regulations.gov.

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