Smart Snack Policy Reforms Food-Selling Rules
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has implemented a new policy called “Smart Snack” this year in public schools. The goal of this policy is to make students buy nutritional snacks and limit junk food. These science-based nutrition standards are required by the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.
Smart Snack requires that all foods sold in school meet certain nutritional guidelines. The food has certain calorie limits: snack items have to be 200 calories or less, and entree items have to be at least 350 calories. The snacks also have certain fat, sodium and sugar limits.
“It’s a federal law, federal guidelines, so it’s nothing that we can kind of finagle around,” Associate Principal Jeremy Higgins said. “People doing different types of bake sales and things, they can’t do it. It stinks, but it is what it is, I guess. [Making up for the lost fundraising] is something [the club] are going to have to think outside the box on. They can make up for it. There are plenty of ways that people can do things without selling candy bars.”
Not only does this new policy affect what SM East sells in the vending machines and in the cafeteria, but it also will stop certain fundraisers that programs at East offers. Snacks such as Otis Spunkmeyer cookies that were offered last year that do not meet the nutritional standards will also be discontinued in sale.
“My problem is that they still sell pizza because it just barely fits within the nutritional guidelines,” said junior theater student Megan Heeney. “They are cutting out junk food but instead of replacing it with healthier options, they’re just finding their way around it. The food needs to be completely overhauled, and I think that’s the intention. Unfortunately, that takes work.”
Band, orchestra and theater have all been known to sell chocolate bars or some other form of treat to raise money for their programs. Since the Smart Snack initiative disallows such sales, the programs will be greatly affected by the inability to sell the snacks during the day.
“I think it’s a little ridiculous,” junior Ellie Stewart-Jones said. “I don’t think that selling chocolate bars will affect people’s body weight really. It makes us a lot of money, and it helps the student population see the different clubs and groups they can support, and really you can get equally unhealthy food in the cafeteria.”
These different programs at East are still unsure of how they will make up for the inability to sell candy bars at school for fundraising. Orchestra teacher Jonathan Lane doesn’t believe the government should have interfered.
“I am not sure how we are going to make up for this loss of fundraising,” Lane said. “If we teach kids proper nutrition, no one would eat the school lunches. Kids should bring lunch from home and put school lunches out of business, then they can bring all the junk food they want.”
Principal John McKinney sees the new policy in a positive light, supporting the advancements the government is trying to make healthwise to public schools.
“I unequivocally respect and applaud the nutrition standards for all foods sold in schools,” McKinney said. “The new standards will affect SME by improving the quality of our meals and the health of our students. SME is in complete support of and compliance with the new regulations.”
New Cafeteria Regulations Change Lunch Menus
Another round of strict cafeteria regulations are hitting the lunch lines this year, headlined by the HealthierUS School Challenge. This is just one of many guidelines, which are a part of first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign to help stifle obesity in children. The regulations assert more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables in school lunches.
“The government blames the schools for making kids fat,” Catering supervisor Jo Sullins said. “I think they’re going to find that we aren’t the problem. It’s a lifestyle thing.”
There’s been a large response to the new regulations, both positive and negative from students and administrators. Some have taken to lobbying Congress, claiming that some of the laws are too extreme. Many students, such as Junior Wyatt Turner, believe that they can make healthy decisions for themselves.
“I could always make healthy choices for myself without the government forcing me to. Is it really that bad to have a cookie once in a while?”
The regulations will only get stricter. By 2016, school meals will need to be comprised of 200 milligrams maximum of sodium. Entree items cannot go over 350 calories.
“Our goal is to find products that will comply with the regulations that [the students] still want to eat. That’s a really tough thing,” Sullins said.
Whether petitioning the cafeteria food, lobbying Congress or mourning the loss of the Otis Spunkmeyer cookies, the cafeteria regulations are here to stay for now. Whether or not they’ll end childhood obesity is still to be determined.