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Iowa Improves on Offering "Smart Snacks" in Schools

New federal regulations are in place this school year to ensure that snacks offered during school hours and after-school activities are healthy. (USDA.gov)
New federal regulations are in place this school year to ensure that snacks offered during school hours and after-school activities are healthy. (USDA.gov)
August 17, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa - The USDA said one-quarter of the calories eaten by kids come from snacks, but in this new school year, more of the snacks eaten at school won't be junk food. Iowa's ahead of many other states for making sure sweets, sodas and foods of questionable nutritional value are being replaced with healthier options in school vending machines and at snack counters. When the USDA first proposed its Smart Snack regulations four years ago, the state was already working on similar guidelines.

Carrie Scheidel, the team nutrition co-director with the Iowa Department of Education, said that helped make sure Iowa's in line with the now-final federal rules.

"They're required to implement these if they participate in the National School Lunch Program and in Iowa it is a requirement that all public school districts take part in the program," she said.

The USDA said healthier snacks, specifically those under 200 calories and low in sodium, fat and sugar, lead to better academic performance.

Scheidel explained the final regulations make sure healthy snacks are available at all times, even during extracurricular activities.

"So in the past, schools would just turn their vending machines off during the school day and then they wouldn't have to worry about it," she added. "But now, you know, they want to have options for students that are there for practice or before-school practice. So then, those products do need to meet 'Smart Snacks.'"

She noted the rules are still providing a few worthwhile challenges. Some school districts have had to readjust when selling items made at snack counters or by students themselves.

"They are trying to explore some 'scratch' items that meet, and I know that comes with school stores that are selling things, and cooking clubs that are selling things," she said. "But it's just getting more creative, beyond just being able to sell a wide variety of things."

Foods and beverages sold during school fundraisers and not meant to be eaten at school are exempt under the Smart Snack guidelines.

Bob Kessler, Public News Service - IA