Smart Snacks are now in Schools!

Healthy, well-nourished students are better learners. It’s true. Students who consume and have access to healthier foods and beverages are more likely to get the nutrients they need to learn, play and grow.  Having healthier foods and beverages available also contributes to the overall health and well-being of youth.

As part of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, the USDA’s Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards went into effect on July 1, 2014 and will apply all around the school campus.  The new Smart Snacks in School rules set limits on calories, fats, sugar and sodium and encourage the consumption of dairy, whole grains, protein, fruits and vegetables. As students continue to see a difference in their school meals (more fruits, vegetables and whole grains), it is important to provide healthier foods and beverages outside of the cafeteria as well to continue to build on the great strides being made in the cafeteria.

What do YOU need to know?

  • The Smart Snacks in School rules affect “competitive foods,” which are snacks (food and beverages) sold to students outside of the school meals programs – including vending machines, a la carte lunch lines, school stores, snack carts and in-school fundraising.
  • Smart Snacks in School will be in effect all school day (midnight before to 30 minutes after the end of the school day) across the whole school campus.
  • Some fundraising will be affected. Foods and beverages sold to students as fundraisers during the school day will have to meet the Smart Snacks in School guidelines. The new rules allowed state agencies the opportunity to set a number of infrequent food or beverage fundraisers that are exempt from the standards.  Minnesota has set their state standards at “ZERO” for allowable exempt school-sponsored fundraisers.
    • Non-food fundraisers or fundraisers that include only foods and beverages that meet the standards are not limited in any way.
  • Smart Snacks in School will not apply to foods served, such as classroom celebrations and during evening, weekend or community events.

What will the changes look like?

Cookies, candy, chips, donuts and soda will be replaced with items like nuts or seeds, popcorn, baked chips, fruit cups and plain water. Here’s a great infographic created by the USDA that shows the difference in standards from the past to the present. 

The new rule carefully balances science-based nutrition guidelines with practical and flexible solutions to promote healthier eating on the school campus.  Here’s a quick glance at the changes…

Any food sold in schools must first meet ONE of FOUR provisions:

  • Be a “whole grain-rich” grain product; OR
  • Have as the first ingredient a fruit, a vegetable, a dairy product, or a protein food; OR
  • Be a combination food that contains at least ¼ cup of fruit and/or vegetable; OR
  • Contain 10% of the Daily Value (DV) of one of the nutrients of public health concern in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (calcium, potassium, vitamin D, or dietary fiber)

If a product meets at least one of the above standards, then the nutrition information must be considered to determine if it meets all nutrient standards. If it also meets all nutrient standards, then the product is a compliant competitive food.  The nutrient requirements, include:

  • Calorie limits
  • Sodium limits
  • Fat limits
  • Sugar limits

A quick note on beverages.  NO caffeinated beverages will be allowed at elementary and middle school. Only plain water, non-fat and low-fat milk and 100% fruit or vegetable juice will be allowed.  In addition, there will be serving size limits for milk and juice. At elementary schools, milk and juice is limited to 8 oz. or less. At middle and high school, milk and juice is limited to 12 oz. or less. Some additional flavored and/or carbonated beverages will be allowed at high school (they must meet certain calorie and serving size limits).  Diet beverages will be limited to 20 oz. or less. Low-calorie beverages will be limited to 12 oz. or less.

View the USDA’s Smart Snacks in School flyer to get more details about the standards.

What can YOU do?

By implementing consistent nutrition standards throughout all corners of the school building, we believe it will enhance the learning environment and contribute to the overall health and well-being of students.  As schools work to change foods and beverages across their campus, we encourage you to play a positive role in supporting the roll-out of these healthier options. Embracing and supporting change starts with all of us!

Healthy regards,
Kathy Geislinger
BLEND Program Specialist