Schools across the United States will get a face-lift when it comes to their vending machine selections. When a kid is having a snack attack they won’t be able to find things like high-calorie sports drinks and candy bars. Gone are the days of Flaming Hot Cheetos. Those items will be replaced with diet drinks, granola bars and other healthier items.
Diet though? How about plain ole water.
The Agriculture Department said Thursday that for the first time it will make sure that all foods sold in the nation’s 100,000 schools are healthier by expanding fat, calorie, sugar and sodium limits to almost everything sold during the school day. Not only will this affect vending machine choices but as well as foods from the “a la carte” lines and bake sales.
The Associated Press reports that one of the biggest changes under the rules will be a near-ban on high-calorie sports drinks, which many beverage companies added to school vending machines to replace high-calorie sodas that they pulled in response to criticism from the public health community. Under the new rule, sodas and sports drink under 60 calories or less in a 12 ounce serving would be allowed in high schools. Elementary and middle schools could sell only water, carbonated water, 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice, and low fat and fat-free milk, including nonfat flavored milks.
Some schools in the U.S. have already adjusted their menus, but not everyone has been an advocate.
Sandra Ford, president of the School Nutrition Association and director of food and nutrition services for a school district in Bradenton, Fla., said in prepared testimony that the healthier foods have been expensive and participation has declined since the standards went into effect. She also predicted that her school district could lose $975,000 a year under the new “a la carte” guidelines because they would have to eliminate many of the foods they currently sell.
“The new meal pattern requirements have significantly increased the expense of preparing school meals, at a time when food costs were already on the rise,” she said.
Ford called on the USDA to permanently do away with the limits on grains and proteins, saying they hampered her school district’s ability to serve sandwiches and salads with chicken on top that had proved popular with students.
The Government Accountability Office said it visited eight districts around the country and found that in most districts students were having trouble adjusting to some of the new foods, leading to increased food waste and decreased participation in the school lunch program.
One advocate in healthier eating in schools has always been Michelle Obama. She believes parents can’t always police what their children consume when they’re in school, so healthier options should be mandatory.
“That’s why as a mom myself, I am so excited that schools will now be offering healthier choices to students and reinforcing the work we do at home to help our kids stay healthy,” Mrs. Obama said in a statement.