THE Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 mandated that the U.S. Department of Agriculture set guidelines for what needed to be included in school wellness policies in areas such as goals for nutrition education and physical activity, informing parents about the policy's content and implementation and periodically assessing progress and sharing updates, as appropriate.
As part of local school wellness policies, new proposed guidelines would ensure that foods and beverages marketed to children in schools are consistent with the recently released Smart Snacks in School standards.
"The new standards ensure that schools remain a safe place where kids can learn and where the school environment promotes healthy choices," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said at a Feb. 25 event. "USDA is committed to working closely with students, parents, school stakeholders and the food and beverage industries to implement the new guidelines and make the healthy choice the easy choice for America's young people."
Vilsack said more than half of the nation's school districts are already doing this or are recommending that the change be made.
First Lady Michelle Obama said at the event, "Today, folks are really starting to think about what they eat and changing what they feed their families. Healthy habits are becoming the new norm, and nowhere is that more evident than at schools."
The American Beverage Assn. (ABA) — whose leading member companies include The Coca-Cola Co., Dr. Pepper Snapple Group and PepsiCo — welcomed the move and said they have been committed to the health and wellness of Americans.
ABA president and chief executive officer Susan Neely said, "Our industry helped lead the way with our voluntary national school beverage guidelines, which removed full-calorie soft drinks, cut beverage calories in schools nationwide by 90% and set the stage for the USDA's regulations that take effect in schools this July. Now, we look forward to working with the USDA on their proposed rule to align food and beverage signage in schools with the new regulations as the logical next step."