USDA releases school nutrition rules

by Jay Sjerven
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 Healthy
The new rules aim to ensure children have access to healhful snacks. 
 
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on July 21 announced four final rules to implement provisions of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA). The final rules aim to ensure children have access to healthful snacks and require nutrition standards for the foods marketed and served in schools to be consistent.

 

Michelle
First Lady Michelle Obama

“I am thrilled with the progress we continue to make in building healthier learning environments for our kids with science-based nutrition standards for all food sold and marketed in schools,” said First Lady Michelle Obama. “As a mom, I know how hard parents work to provide nutritious meals and snacks to their kids, and we want to make sure we support those efforts with healthy choices at school. I am inspired by the tremendous work that’s being done in schools across the country to provide our kids healthy food to fuel them throughout the day so that they can grow up healthy and fulfill their boundless promise.”

The Smart Snacks in School final rule aligns the nutritional quality of snacks sold to children during the school day with the nutrition standards for school lunches and breakfasts implemented during the last five years under the HHFKA. These include ensuring children are offered more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. States have the flexibility to allow limited exemptions to school-sponsored fundraisers during the school day.

The Smart Snacks standards were implemented in the 2014-15 school year in accordance with the interim final rule. The final rule includes minor adjustments to those standards based on public comments and lessons learned from implementation, according to the US Dept. of Agriculture.

The Local School Wellness Policy final rule ensures that any food or beverage marketed on school campuses during the school day meets the Smart Snacks standards. The Local School Wellness Policy final rule also empowers communities to take an active role in the health of their children. It requires schools to engage parents, students and community members in the annual development and assessment of local school wellness policies. These policies guide a school district’s efforts to establish school environments that support healthy eating and physical activity. States and local communities will have flexibility in developing a policy that works best for them.

The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) final rule and the Administrative Review final rule also were issued. Under the HHFKA, CEP allows schools and local educational agencies with high poverty rates to provide free breakfast and lunch to all students to promote access to healthful food and reduce administrative burdens on schools and families. The final rule streamlines administrative processes, making it easier to participate in the meal programs. More than 18,000 schools in high poverty areas currently participate in CEP, which is now in its second year of nationwide implementation offering meals at no cost to 8.5 million students.

The Administrative Review final rule updates the administrative review process used by state agencies to monitor federally-funded school meal programs. It aims to safeguard the integrity of the programs, ensure taxpayer dollars are being spent as intended, and increase accountability and transparency by publicly posting how well school food authorities are complying with various requirements. State agencies began implementing the updated review process in the 2013-14 school year. Currently 95 percent of state agencies are implementing the updated administrative review process. 

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