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On June 27th, the USDA announced its finalized “Smart Snacks in School” guidelines, which affect the 100,000+ elementary, middle and high schools that accept assistance from the National School Lunch Program.

The Smart Snacks in School rules affect “competitive foods,” which are so called because they compete with the lunch program. Competitive foods are snacks sold in vending machines, a la carte lunch lines and in student stores. These guidelines had not previously been touched for the past 30 years! That is, until the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 set a deadline for the USDA to revamp them.

The new rules set limits on calories, fats, sugar and sodium while encouraging the consumption of dairy, whole grains, protein, fruits and vegetables. Schools must comply by July 1, 2014.

What Does This Mean?

The Smart Snacks in School guidelines stipulate that all foods sold in school must be a ‘whole grain rich’ product, meaning they contain 50% whole grains or have whole grains as the first ingredient OR have as the first ingredient a fruit, a vegetable, a dairy product or a protein-rich food. Combination foods that contain at least ¼ cup fruit and/or vegetable or naturally contain 10% of the daily value (DV) of calcium, potassium, vitamin D or dietary fiber will also be accepted.

Here is a breakdown of the nutrient limits for snacks:

Calorie limits:

  • Snacks must contain less than or equal to 200 calories
  • A la carte entrees must contain less than or equal to 350 calories

Sugar limits:

  • Snacks must contain less than or equal to 35% sugar by weight
  • There are exemptions for dried fruit without added sugars and even those with added nutritive sweeteners that are required for processing and/or palatability purposes (such as cranberries, tart cherries, and blueberries). The USDA will be providing more guidance on this particular exemption in the coming months. Products that consist of only dried fruit with nuts and/or seeds with no added nutritive sweeteners or fat will also be exempt.

Sodium limits:

  • Snacks must contain less than or equal to 230mg of sodium until July 1, 2016; thereafter, snacks must contain less than or equal to 200mg sodium
  • A la carte entrees must contain equal or less than 480mg

Fat limits:

  • Total fat must be less than or equal to 35% of calories
  • Saturated fat must be less than or equal to 10% of calories
  • There must be no trans fat in the product, per the label
  • There are exemptions for nuts & seeds, nut & seed butters, seafood and part-skim mozzarella cheese

Beverage limits differ based on grade level:

  • Allowable beverages for all students are limited to plain water (carbonated or uncarbonated), lowfat milk (unflavored) and nonfat milk (including flavored), nutritionally equivalent milk alternatives (as permitted by the school meal requirements), and full strength fruit or vegetable juices and full strength fruit and vegetable juice diluted with water or carbonated water. With the exception of water, which has no portion limit, beverages are limited to 8 fluid ounces for elementary schools, and 12 fluid ounces for middle and high schools. With the exception of trace naturally occurring caffeine, beverages must be caffeine-free for elementary and middle schools.

For high schools:

  • Calorie free beverages are allowed in up to 20oz containers (less than five calories per 8 ounce serving or less than or equal to 10 calories per 20 fluid ounces)
  • For lower calories drinks, up to 40 calories per 8 ounces will be accepted while 60 calories per 12 ounces will also be accepted
  • Caffeine is permitted in beverages

Please note, these rules do not apply to foods brought from home as bagged lunches or for birthday parties, off campus fundraisers, athletic events and school plays or foods sold during non-school hours.

Why turn to HUMAN Healthy Vending?

We’ve worked with thousands of schools across the nation to improve their vending options and one thing we know for sure is that the most successful schools take time to transition, involve students via sampling events and really help the student (and parent) body understand the reasoning behind these changes.

There is no need to throw away your vending machine revenue now that the Smart Snacks in School guidelines have been finalized – now is the time to revamp your competitive food offerings, showcase your school as a leader in nutrition and keep, if not increase, your commissions from vending machine sales!

The full rules are available here.

To read our press release on Smart Snacks in School, please click here.

© HUMAN Healthy Vending, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to HUMAN Healthy Vending with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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