U.S. government leading child obesity fight with nutrition standards in schools
WORLD / U.S. – The calorie counting begins in schools in an effort to curb child obesity.
Since the Healthy Hunger-free Kids Act passed in 2010, there have been gradual shift in the nutritional habits implemented by the new policy. The new rules for healthier foods in public schools came into effect on 1st July 2014 and it sets the nutrition standards for all food and beverage offerings in schools. It is the “Smart Snacks in Schools” nutrition standards.
According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act allows, “for the first time in over 30 years, opportunity to make real reforms to the school lunch and breakfast programs by improving the critical nutrition and hunger safety net for millions of children.”
First Lady Michelle Obama championed and led the initiative in her fight against childhood obesity as part of her Let’s Move! initiative. Her experience with childhood obesity spurred her interest in providing healthier options to students in schools.
USDA in charge of nutritional standards
With the new policy in effect, this also means the USDA will audit school districts to assess compliance with nutritional standards every three years. The USDA can also control and set requirements for nutritional standards to all foods sold in school during school hours. This includes vending machines and bake-sale goodies, including those sold at fundraisers.
Childhood obesity (and obesity in general) is a growing concern in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years
- The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2012
- Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to nearly 21% over the same period
- In 2012, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese
“Healthy” policy not well-received
Some schools are not taking the new reforms well. Georgia’s school Superintendent John Barge and State Board of Education Chair Helen Rice considered the rules “absolute overreach of the federal government.” “Tough economic times have translated into fewer resources and these fundraisers allow our schools to raise a considerable amount of money for very worthwhile education programs,” Barge said in a recent press release.
“While we are concerned about the obesity epidemic, limiting food and beverage fundraisers at schools and school-related events is not the solution.”
A look into the Smart Snacks in Schools flyer has the following summary for fundraisers:
- The sale of food items that meet nutrition requirements at fundraisers are not limited in any way under the standards
- The standards do not apply during non-school hours, on weekends and at off-campus fundraising events
- The standards provide a special exemption for infrequent fundraisers that do not meet the nutrition standards
- State agencies may determine the frequency with which fundraising activities take place that allow the sale of food and beverage items that do not meet the nutrition standards.
The standard requirements apply, and accompanying sides must also be included in the nutrition profile:
What do you think of the government’s policy and how do you think it can be improved?