Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Myth: School snacks aren’t a good choice for my child.

Student getting a soda from a vending machineAnswer: Well maybe …

Many schools have started changing the snacks they make available to students to include healthier choices. New proposed federal rules are now available for comment. Any school that receives federal funding for school meals will have to follow these rules when they go into effect.

The proposed new rules apply to competitive foods or foods that “compete” with school meals and are sold before, during, and up to 30 minutes after the school day ends such as vending, school stores and bars and cafeteria a la carte. What foods don’t have to follow these proposed rules? Food brought from home such as lunches and food for parties. Also, foods sold during non-school hours, weekends, off-campus – concession foods, food sold at sporting events and at school plays, after-school bake sales and fundraisers.

In general, snacks will include more nutritious offerings such as fruit, vegetable, protein, dairy or whole grains, and there will be limits to the amount of calories and sodium, fat and sugar they can contain. What about drinks? Caffeinated beverages will be allowed for high school students. For elementary and middle school students, only drinks with small amounts of naturally occurring caffeine will be allowed. We know that portion sizes are a concern especially because they add extra unnecessary calories and in some cases, sugar to students’ diets. Portion sizes for drinks will be as follows: for elementary students, up to 8 ounces; for middle and high schoolers, up to 12 ounces. Different portion sizes are allowed for calorie-free or lower-calorie drinks. You can find a good question-and-answer about these proposed changes at If you want to make comments about these rules you can find more information at Comments about these proposed standards are due by October 28, 2013.

The rules, if approved, will begin July 2014 with the start of the 2014-2015 school year.

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

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