The U.S. Department of Agriculture has released an interim final rule to establish nutrition standards for “competitive” foods and beverages sold in school a la carte lines, vending machines and snack bars during the school day. Foods sold at after school events will not be subject to the new rules (see video here).

The “Smart Snacks in School” rule will go into effect during the 2013-14 school year but schools and their vendors will have the year to make the changes needed to comply, and USDA said it will offer training and technical assistance during this period.

“School meal programs are already in the midst of a sea of change as cafeterias work to meet new school breakfast and lunch standards and encourage students to try the healthier choices offered,” says SNA President Sandra Ford, SNS, who had testified before the U.S. House's Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education on the costs and consequences for schools and students of school meal regulations the same day the interim final rule was announced.

“Complex regulations can present unique challenges and unintended consequences when put into practice,” Ford noted. "For example, the final nutrition standards for school meals contained weekly limits on the amount of grains and proteins served with school meals. Many schools were forced to eliminate daily sandwich choices from their menus because offering two slices of whole grain bread a day could exceed weekly limits on grains. USDA issued a temporary reprieve from the grain and protein limits, and SNA is supporting legislation to permanently eliminate these limits. 

“SNA will work with USDA and Congress throughout implementation to ensure the competitive food regulations do not present undue burdens on school menu planners and students,” Ford concluded.