Starting July 1, 2014 the new Smart Snacks in Schools rule will go into effect. This rule outlines what can and cannot be sold in school vending machines, student stores, fundraisers, and a la carte lunches. The new rules outline everything in a detailed manner, but the basics behind it are that foods that are considered unhealthy will be banned from being sold in schools.
Under these new rules, caffeinated drinks will only be allowed to be sold in high schools. Water, carbonated water, unflavored milk that is low-fat or flavored fat-free milk, and 100 percent fruit or vegetable juices will be allowed at all schools. The drinks that high schools sell that do not fall into these categories have strict rules regarding calories.
Competitive foods that are sold as snacks must not have more than 200 calories, and meals that are sold outside of the school lunch program may not exceed 350 calories. There can be no more than 35 percent fat in these foods, with exceptions being made for some reduced fat cheeses and nuts. No more than 10 percent saturated fat is allowed, with the exception again being some cheeses and nuts. No items may contain trans fat. The rules also detail sugar, items cannot contain anything more than 35 percent sugar by weight, with some fruits being the exception.
So with all of these new restrictions calling for food considered unhealthy to be banned from being sold in schools, one may be left wondering, what will be allowed? The rules also clearly define this. Any competitive food must be either a fruit, vegetable, whole-grain food, protein-rich food, or dairy item. Foods that are whole-grain are defined by having a whole-grain ingredient as the first ingredient listed, or by being at least 50 percent whole-grain by weight. Protein-rich foods include things like seeds, eggs, nuts, seafood, beans, poultry, and meat.
Some feel that these rules will result in unintended consequences. Changes that have already been made to school lunch policies have resulted in 1.2 million students opting out of buying lunch at school. Some schools have chosen to exit the federal program because of the high amount of waste that these new rules are resulting in, which also means a loss of money for the school. The schools are spending thousands of dollars on food that ultimately ends up being thrown away. Schools in Monticello, Illinois are opting out, and are expecting to save $60,000. However, by opting out of the federal program, these schools also lose federal subsidies for low-income students.
If the kids are not eating the food provided at school, what are they eating? Some bring lunches to school, but there is a growing trend in self-appointed food checkers who take away food that they deem unhealthy from homemade lunches. Many students who are able to leave the school campus for lunch choose to do that. Still, many other students skip eating at school all together and eat large amounts at fast food establishments after school.
Is banning the sale of foods considered unhealthy in schools really the best option for students? The hope of the campaign is to foster and encourage healthy eating habits, and create a healthier generation of young people, who face obesity at alarming rates. However, if the children are not eating the food, is anything being taught? Children who are not hungry perform better academically and experience less behavior disruptions. Good nutritious food may seem like it would only benefit children in their academic career, however if these children are not eating the food this may not be a solution to the obesity rates in children.
By Ashley Campbell