The Obama administration on Friday released its long-awaited nutritional guidelines for snack foods sold in schools, an effort to combat the expanding waistlines of school-age children.
The guidelines come a year after the administration made the first changes to the $11 billion government-subsidized school meal program in more than three decades, adding more fruits and green vegetables to breakfasts and lunches, and reducing the amount of salt and fat in meals.
The new guidelines, which set minimum requirements for calories and fats allowed, encourage schools to offer low-fat and whole-grain snack foods or fruits, and limit the availability of sugary drinks. They leave room for parents to send treats to school for activities like birthdays and holiday parties, and will also allow schools to sell sweets for fundraisers and after-school sporting events. School districts would have the flexibility to set tougher standards than the federal guidelines.
"Parents and teachers work hard to instill healthy eating habits in our kids, and these efforts shouldn't be undermined when kids walk through the schoolhouse door," said Tom Vilsack, the agriculture secretary.
The public will have 60 days to comment before the rules are finalized for the next school year.
A study by the National Academy of Sciences estimates that about $2.3 billion worth of snack foods and beverages are sold annually in schools nationwide. On Friday, representatives from the snack-food and beverage industries said they generally agreed with the guidelines.