Eat. Play. Learn. S is for Smart Snacks in Schools

To celebrate the publication of Proceedings of the Learning Connection Summit: Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Student Achievement, I’m offering a short daily post during February on the ABCs of the health and academics.

S is for SMART SNACKS in Schools

Starting in fall 2014, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) interim rule on competitive foods, SMART SNACKS in Schools, goes into effect. In my opinion, there’s lots of good news in the rule, starting with more fruits, veggies, low-fat dairy foods, whole grains, and lean proteins. Based on experience with existing standards, like the 6,640+ HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC) winners and Alliance for a Healthier Generation (AHG) districts, the proposed rule is realistic and can benefit kids’ health.

We also need a reality check about the rule does and does not do. While SMART SNACKS in Schools represents another significant step toward healthy school nutrition environments, it does not cover foods brought from home, foods for classroom parties or any foods sold after regular school hours (athletic events, after-school fundraisers, etc.). Compliance and monitoring will be an issue outside of cafeterias. Fortunately, the AASA (American Association of School Superintendents) has a Competitive Foods Policy Initiative to build necessary support for strong policies.

After the 2012 Nutrition Standards for School Lunch went into effect, Jane Brody wrote “There’s Homework to Do on School Lunches” in the New York Times. Her basic premise was that the federal regulations and standards are just the beginning – and that homes and schools also have work at improving how children eat. I believe the same is true for this issue.

To build strong bodies and smart brains, children also need SMART SNACKS at home, SMART SNACKS brought from home to school, and SMART SNACKS served in concession stands at sporting events. A healthy school environment will take more than new regulations – it will require a culture of wellness – designed to support the connection between nutrition and academic success.

USDA Smart Snacks in Schools

USDA Smart Snacks in Schools

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