Thursday, February 7, 2013

Myth: Foods sold in school vending machines don’t have to follow the same ‘healthy’ rules as school meals.

Answer: TRUE, but that may change...

On Friday, Feb. 1, 2013, USDA issued proposed guidelines that would mean healthier options in schools – foods lower in fat, sugar and sodium with more of the nutrients kids need. Access to sugary drinks would be limited.

Why is this important? Students get anywhere from about 1/3 to 1/2 of their calories at school.1 About 40% of all students buy and eat one or more snacks at school and 68% buy and drink at least one sugary drink.1 The proposed guidelines would cover foods available in school vending machines, "a la carte" lunch lines and any other foods regularly sold around school including snack bars. The proposed rules, if approved and implemented, would not cover in-school fundraisers, bake sales, after-school concessions at school games, food brought from home for classroom celebrations or anything a student brings from home to eat. School meals that are supported by the government wouldn’t follow these new guidelines since they follow other recently updated rules. Individual states and school districts could decide to add additional regulations to go beyond the guidelines.

There will be a 60 day comment period. The guidelines are available at and The standards will not go into effect until at least one full school year after public comment is considered and implementation rules are published.

1How can healthier school snacks and beverages improve student health and help school budgets? Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, accessed Feb. 5, 2013.

Contributor: Ellen Schuster, M.S., R.D., Associate State Specialist, University of Missouri Extension,, 573-882-1933

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