Every U.S. school district will be affected by new rules on school snacks proposed earlier this month by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, according to the National School Boards Association (NSBA).
No state currently has standards that fully comply with the Department’s proposal for “competitive foods,” which include foods sold in vending machines, school stores and a la carte lines , said NSBA’s Director of Federal Programs Lucy Gettman.
The rules are part of the 2010 Child Nutrition Act reauthorization that requires the Secretary of Agriculture to issue mandatory standards for competitive foods. The proposed rule sets requirements for calories, total fat, saturated fat, transfat, sugar and vitamin or nutrient content of all foods sold outside the school meal programs, on the school campus and at any time during the school day.
Further, school districts would be burdened by new reporting and monitoring requirements, Gettman said. Maintaining receipts, nutrition labels and product specifications for competitive food service would apply throughout the campus, not just to the school food authority. NSBA is carefully analyzing the proposal and plans to send comments to the USDA.
NSBA has had ongoing concerns about the impact of the law, known as the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act, and the ensuing regulatory standards. Restrictions on competitive foods, for one, could dramatically lower revenues used to fund athletics and extracurricular activities.
“The USDA is regulating in the dark when it comes to the impact on instruction and school revenue from competitive food sales, because there is no comprehensive data on how much revenue schools raise and how it is used,” Gettman said.
The USDA, which has been criticized for its heavy-handed approach to what traditionally has been a local issue, noted in its announcement that the proposed regulations would still allow parents to send in bagged lunches of their choosing or treats for activities such as birthday parties, holidays, and other celebrations.
The proposal also would allow schools to continue “infrequent” fundraisers and bake sales, as long as they are not conducted in the cafeteria or during regular meal times. And foods sold at after school sporting events or other activities would not be subject to the requirements.
The USDA characterizes the proposed rule as a minimum standard. Additional state or local standards may impose more stringent requirements if they are consistent with the Department’s final rule.