School vending machines, a la carte lunch lines, and other snacks sold to students at school are facing their first new regulations in more than 30 years—standards heralded by nutrition experts but that will likely be subjected to a battle by the food industry.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture unveiled the long-awaited proposed rules Feb. 1. Among other measures, the proposal would promote the availability of healthy snack foods with whole grains, low-fat dairy, fruits, vegetables, and sources of protein as their main ingredients, and require that those items be lower in fat, sugar, and sodium than current offerings.
The changes are parallel to shifts in USDA rules on school meals that took effect this year.
The proposed rules would affect all food sold at school other than infrequent fundraisers and would not limit parents’ ability to send in bagged lunches of their choice or treats for birthdays or other celebrations. Foods sold at after-school sporting events or other activities also would be unaffected.
The USDA was authorized to overhaul regulations for sodas and snacks by the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, but repeatedly said it needed more time to formulate a proposal. As a result, they may not be implemented until the 2014-15 school year or later.
The public will have 60 days to comment on the proposal once it’s posted at www.regulations.gov, which is expected to be this week, the agency said.
A version of this article appeared in the February 06, 2013 edition of Education Week as Snack Foods at School to Face New Scrutiny