The federal government is proving relentless in its quest for fighting obesity in public schools. Last year, it forced school systems to offer “healthier” foods in cafeterias. This year it’s cracking down on food served during classroom parties or sold in vending machines or offered a la carte.
Say goodbye to Coke Classic, Skittles and Snickers on school campuses, but at least clubs can still sell Krispy Kreme donuts from street corners after school or on weekends.
Susan Harvin, system food service director, briefed the Commerce Board of Education Thursday night on a new School Wellness Policy being imposed upon schools by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The 2006 federal Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act changed guidelines for meals served in schools, mandating more fruits and vegetables, whole grains and calorie limits. Now, the system must comply with a School Smart Snacks policy that will cover any snack items sold on school campuses and food brought in by parents for class parties.
The policy applies to all grade levels and sets limits for calories, fat, sugar and sodium.
And while it applies to fundraisers conducted at school during school hours, the new policy does not affect the sale of candy, doughnuts or other items sold by students after hours or on weekends. Nor does it affect concession stand sales at athletic events or food offered at evening functions.
“This will be something that’s audited,” Harvin told the board.
She noted that companies that provide snacks in school settings are making adjustments.
“Mayfield has created a list of products to meet those requirements for elementary, middle and primary schools,” she said. “Industry food producers like Kellogg’s and General Mills are all looking at it. We’ve got to adjust.
“It’s all an effort to look at school health when you consider we have an 18-percent (national) obesity rate, and Georgia ranks second in the country.”
Twinkie fans can cling to some hope. Harvin said the law allows the state board of education to make up to five exceptions.
“So, there’s a loophole there,” she advised. “I don’t know how big it is, but it’s only for fundraisers.”
Asked how students reacted to the healthier meal initiative last year, Harvin conceded that it has affected participation rates.
“A lot of the kids don’t like whole-grain pasta noodles or whole-grain rolls,” she said. “Portions may be smaller.”
The new regulations can be found on the school system’s website www.commercecityschools.org by going under the “departments” tab to “nutrition” and then to “school smart snack requirements.”