Guidelines address wellness standards in schools

by Jeff Gelski
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WASHINGTON – Proposed guidelines in local school wellness policies would ensure food and beverages marketed to children in schools are consistent with the Smart Snacks in School standards, according to the US Department of Agriculture. First Lady Michelle Obama and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the proposed guidelines Feb. 25.

“The idea here is simple – our classrooms should be healthy places where kids aren’t bombarded with ads for junk food because when parents are working hard to teach their kids healthy habits at home, their work shouldn’t be undone by unhealthy messages at school,” Obama said.

The Smart Snacks in School standards appeared in the Federal Register on June 28, 2013. The standards dealt with foods sold in schools other than food sold under lunch and breakfast programs. They set limits for food items in such areas as calories fat, sugar and sodium.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 mandated the USDA set guidelines for what needed to be included in local school wellness policies.

“The food-marketing and local-wellness standards proposed today support better health for our kids and echo the good work already taking place at home and in schools across the country,” Vilsack said. “The new standards ensure that schools remain a safe place where kids can learn and where the school environment promotes healthy choices.”

To help schools implement the new policies, the USDA has launched a new “School nutrition environment and wellness resources” web site. The site includes sample wellness policy language for school districts and a page of resources for food marketing practices on the school campus.

The American Beverage Association, Washington, on Feb. 25 said it applauded Obama’s efforts to strengthen school wellness policies, including aligning food and beverage signs in schools to reflect what is allowed under USDA regulations.

“Mrs. Obama’s efforts to continue to strengthen school wellness make sense for the well-being of our school children,” said Susan Neely, president and CEO of the association.
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