Retired General Gets Junk Food Out of Schools

Pop and cupcakes and chips -- they're on their way out of school cafeterias and vending machines.

A new federal "Smart Snacks" rule announced today will push out of any schools that receive federal funds for meals those high-sugar, high-fat and nutritionally shallow snacks beginning with the 2014-15 school year.

Officials had worried that they were competing for the more nutritional offerings in the school lunch line.

Salty crackers? Gone soon.

Fatty granola bars? See ya.

Instead, kids may have a bigger selection of fresh fruit, low-fat popcorn and lower fat granola bars.

"It's going to be a game-changer for our young people," said U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in announcing the rule this morning.

Citing obesity among children as well as hunger issues, Vilsack said the new rule logically follows the upgraded standards for lunch and breakfasts at school under the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.

Under the law, federally funded school meals already must meet federal nutrition standards, boosting servings of veggies and fruits and low-fat milk and allowing fewer fat and calories in pizza and other traditional cafeteria offerings.

But until now, schools could also provide a la carte foods and beverages that didn't meet those same standards.

The rules do not prohibit or limit foods that parents send to schools, nor do they prohibit the foods sold at football games and other events outside of the school day.

"But during the school day when food is sold during the school, we want to make sure the message is consistent," Jana Kelley, left, 42, Vilsack said, referring to the new standards.

Obesity and health issues threaten national security, keeping young adults out of the military, said Lt. Gen. Norman R. Seip, USAF (Ret.) of Mission: Readiness, a nonprofit group of retired military leaders.

Seip accompanied Vilsack on the morning press call, saying obesity "has the potential of being a national security issue" because young adults are unable to join the military, in part, because of health issues.

Kids in schools today consume the equivalent of 2 billion candy bars each year -- enough to stretch around the Earth six times, Seip said.

The new rules are a "watershed moment" for those concerned about obesity rates and other nutrition concerns for students, said Kyle Guerrant, director of the office of school support services for the Michigan Department of Education.

Like many states, Michigan's policies recommended that snacks meet nutrition standards, but could not enforce those standards.

"We haven't had that ability in the past to say you must focus ... around healthier options," he said. Now, in addition to paying attention to the breakfast and lunch lines, "they'll have to look at that broader food environment," he said.

Show Full Article