USDA recently published practical, science-based nutrition standards for snack foods and beverages sold to children at school during the school day. The standards, required by the Healthy Hunter-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA), were newly named "Smart Snacks in Schools"
Students across the country are now offered healthier school meals with more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. The "Smart Snacks in Schools" standards will build on those healthy advancements and ensure that children are only offered tasty and nutritious foods during the school day. Hill Top Academy food services staff has been working hard to instill healthy habits in our students. We also appreciate the support efforts by the school administrators, teachers, and parents/guardians in the past and we know that support will continue in the future. It is important to note that USDA has no role in regulating foods brought from home but we certainly congratulate our parents/guardians for stepping up and making their child's meal healthy too!
"Smart Snacks in School" regulations group food into three distinct categories, each with their own set of standards: Entrees (pizza, sandwiches, etc.) cannot contain more than 350 calories or 480 milligrams (mg.) of sodium; Sides (soups, cheese sticks, fries, etc.) cannot contain more than 200 calories or 200 mg. of sodium; Beverages have strict nutrient and serving size limitations based on age groups. All three categories include further nutritional regulations for total fat, saturated fat, trans fat and sugars.
How has the CAIU Food Services Department prepared for these changes?
The Food Service Department has been looking at all their a la carte offerings and making sure they meet the new standards. School Nutrition Association (SNA), School Nutrition Association of Pennsylvania (SNAPa), and manufacturers have worked together to meet the new criteria producing tasty yet healthier products. We have worked with our local food service distributor to make sure these products are available to us. They, in turn, have worked to provide us a list of "smart snacks" that meet the requirements. We certainly have appreciated the efforts of all involved!
What does all this mean for HTA students?
Students will see changes, although the majority of a la carte items offered at HTA already meet or exceed the new requirements. The cafeteria has been serving whole grain, low fat, lower sodium food snack items for a few years now so students will only see a few small changes as a result of the "Smart Snacks in School" regulations. Where they will see the most changes will be in the sides offered as an a la carte item along with a few of the entrees like pizza.
Another area students will see as a big change is in the beverages. Iced tea, flavored water, etc. will only be available for those students in 9-12 grades. The younger grades will only be allowed plain bottled water, fruit juices and milk. We have, however, introduced a new fruit juice option that students have liked and that meet the requirements. We will continue to look at new products that we believe students will enjoy yet meet the healthier criteria!
The new regulations reach beyond the cafeteria and enact nutrition standards for all foods sold in schools, including fundraisers and vending machines.