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March 1, 2013

School food rules will be good for children

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The Daily Star

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Thanks for your recent article on the USDA’s proposed rule on foods sold in school outside of lunch. These “competitive” foods, including a la carte items, snack foods and beverages, have a big impact on student health. The proposed minimum requirements for calories and fat allowed will encourage healthier snack foods and limit sugary drink availability.

These standards are consistent with the U.S. Dietary Guidelines and will promote the health of all schoolchildren. The 60-day public comment period for the proposed provisions will likely have widespread support, given recent polls showing strong parental support for healthy school food. It’s also gratifying to see local school leaders in support of this approach that will reach millions of American children. 

The proposed standards offer flexibility and reasonable limitations. They recognize and honor the strong traditions and norms around school food. While promoting healthy snack foods, parents’ ability to send in bagged lunches of their choosing or treats for activities such as birthday parties, holidays and other celebrations will remain and the proposed rule allows schools to continue traditions like occasional fundraisers and bake sales.

The standard affects only foods that are sold on school campus during the school day, not foods sold at after-school sporting events or activities. It will also allow variation by age group for beverage portion size and caffeine content. State and local communities will also be able to establish minimum requirements for schools. Schools that have stronger standards than what is being proposed will be able to maintain their own policies.

Our students need choices, but when they feel like a kid in a candy store while at school, limiting unhealthy choices makes good sense. These proposed standards will help schools meet their mission and keep our kids healthy.

Thomas E. Hohensee

Cooperstown

Hohensee is the Health Promotion/Disease Prevention Specialist Coordinator for Healthy Schools NY with the Bassett Healthcare Network.