Jessica Donze Black, director of the Kids' Safe and Healthful Foods Project, issued the following statement regarding the interim final rule by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, or USDA, setting nutrition standards for snack foods and beverages sold in U.S. schools:
"The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Smart Snacks in School rule is an important step for improving kids' health, setting a minimum nutritional baseline for snacks and beverages sold in schools. Once these guidelines are fully implemented, the options available to students will be healthy ones.
Millions of students currently have widespread access to snacks and beverages that are high in sugar, fat, and salt, but limited access to nutritious options such as fruits and vegetables in school stores, snack bars, and vending machines. With many students consuming up to half of their daily calories at school, these new standards represent the kind of positive change we need to help reduce obesity rates among children and teens.
The next vital part of the process is for districts to begin implementing these standards. The guidelines established by USDA serve as a baseline—states and localities can build on them and customize exactly what items are served to students in their schools. Offering nutritious snacks will help to ensure that the healthy choice is the easy choice for all students.
Earlier this year, USDA accepted nearly 250,000 comments from parents, industry, nutrition experts, and other members of the general public on a proposed rule for snack foods and beverages sold in U.S. schools. This interim final rule complements the agency's standards for school meals that took effect during 2012–2013. The guidelines, which will be implemented by 2014–2015, are available at http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/governance/legislation/allfoods.htm.