Recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued new nutritional guidelines for foods and beverages sold in vending machines, snack bars, school stores, and other so-called competitive food programs that will take effect in the 2014-2015 school year.
A competitive food program is any food sold at school not part of the regular lunch and breakfast programs.
These standards, which improved upon regulations set forth in the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, call for lower amounts of sugar, salt, and fat in competitive foods in an effort to combat childhood obesity.
Some of the new rules require that snacks have nutritional value and have an ingredient from one of the major food groups as the first ingredient, and beverages to have no more than 40 calories per 8 fluid ounce or 60 calories per 12-fluid ounce. Essentially, this means that sugary sweet drinks and high-fat snacks like doughnuts, cookies, regular potato chips, and candy bars will soon be things of the past in schools.
District 215 is already in compliance with federal and state laws regarding school lunches. Several years ago, Superintendent Creg E. Williams overhauled the district’s school lunch program by eliminating processed foods and directing school lunch staff to bake foods that traditionally had been fried. The district’s school vending machines already have healthy options including baked goods and granola bars.
Although District 215 is ahead of the curve on school meals and competitive food guidelines, there is still more work to be done. While our students have responded well to the healthier food options we provide, an estimated 37 percent of our students are considered overweight or obese. In the fight against childhood obesity, parents and families must work with our schools to reinforce healthy eating messaging.
A study recently published in the Journal of Public Health found that students gain weight more quickly during the summer months than any other time throughout the year. As your child counts down the days until the start of school, encourage them to make healthy food choices.