‘Smart Snacks in School’ Regulation To Limit Sale of Non-Cafeteria Foods

‘Smart Snacks in School’ Regulation To Limit Sale of Non-Cafeteria Foods

The United States Department of Agriculture has recently enacted a new set of guidelines for the nutritional requirements of snacks sold in schools in an effort to get them up to the same standard of school lunches. Only authorized snacks will be permitted for sale during school hours in an effort to increase cafeteria purchases, effectively preventing many school fundraising activities.

Former Virginia food regulation prevented the sale of meals on school campuses that competed with federally subsidized school lunches to ensure that children ate healthily. The ‘Smart Snacks in School’ regulation will extend this similarly to snacks by preventing the sale of unapproved miscellaneous food items unless they too comply with guidelines.

Teachers and staff in Loudoun County Public Schools found an email in their inbox on February 24th from Dr. Becky Domokos-Bays, Supervisor for the County’s School Nutrition Services, informing them of the new requirements. The email contained instructions to pass the information on and attached the guidelines for the county cafeterias to follow.

“This rule applies to all food/beverage fundraising during the school day, vending machines, and any food/beverages sold to students,” Domokos-Bays wrote.

The guidelines came along with a list of snacks meeting eligibility to be sold in cafeterias.  Approved snacks included baked chips, pretzels and crackers, reduced fat popcorn, and diet sodas. Unapproved snacks included candy bars, soft drinks, and other items with sugar content exceeding the limited amount.

The Smart Snacks standards do allow leeway for student fundraising activities, such as allowing unapproved snacks to be sold thirty minutes after the final bell has rung. The administrative practicality is limited, according to Woodgrove High School Principal William Shipp; he says that clubs and other in school activities will have a tougher time raising funds without being able to sell food.

“Clubs are going to have to become more creative [in their fundraising],” Shipp admitted.

Other in-school administrators are wary of the change as well. Woodgrove High School Cafeteria Manager Genelda Bartling spoke about the effects of this regulation and others by saying that tighter regulation allows cafeteria cooks less freedom in choosing menus for the students and where ingredients can be acquired.

“We can’t even serve tuna in the cafeteria because it goes over the sodium limit,” Mrs. Bartling said. “We’re going to have to police ourselves further when it comes to these policies.”

English teacher and debate team coach Samantha Purvis is similarly concerned about the changes. The Woodgrove High School Debate Team is reliant wholly on private funding and will be struggling to find a way to make ends meet.

The new regulations have been handed down from Washington, as a part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s school lunch reform initiative. A series of a reforms spearheaded by the First Lady focusing on combatting childhood obesity has affected schools down to the local level.

The requirements were technically brought into effect in July 2014, but with only minimal enforcement on the part of schools. Woodgrove began to deactivate its commercial vending machines during the school day after the change was announced.

According to Principal Shipp, there is one way around the regulations for student fundraisers, but he concedes that it is very improbable and will not be wide spread. Students can, under the regulations, purchase non-approved snacks at school so long as they consume them 30 minutes after the final bell has rung.