Although grabbing a candy bar or a bag of potato chips from a school vending machine may be a tempting and convenient snack for students, those options likely won't be available the next school year.
According to the Kansas Association of School Boards, a new federal rule soon will be expanding the reach of federal school nutrition legislation into school vending machines.
The rule, designed to take effect in the 2014-2015 school year, states school vending machines cannot offer "high calorie, low nutritional value" snacks, such as mini doughnuts, cookies, candy bars, fried potato chips and full-calorie sodas, KASB reported. All food sold in schools will have to meet certain requirements, and there will be an emphasis on fruits, vegetables and whole-grain products.
Barbara Bunting, USD 373 board member, said she is supportive of the new regulations.
"I am concerned about the health and wellness of our students, families and community," she said. "This is a bigger issue that has consequences in our quality of life and health-care costs. ... Just as we block unhealthy sites on the Internet to protect our students, these regulations empower students to make personal decisions regarding their health at an early age."
So, how will these regulations impact local schools? Elaine Gaeddert, USD 373 director of food service, previously reported to the Kansan the school district already has limited unhealthy choices in school vending machines. Students now have healthier options like granola bars and vitamin water.
“We lean more towards more of the healthy (snacks), not candy bars and sweets,” she said.
Bunting said the district's food services department has worked toward healthier options on both a required and voluntary manner. She believes providing choices for students that are both appealing and nutritious is an important balance.
"Research has shown that a healthy child is a better student," she said. "At-risk students, who may not have the opportunities for physical and mental recreation or nutritious meals, add to the challenges our teachers face daily. Fortunately, our community has stepped up to those needs in creative ways."
One area in U.S. schools that may not feel the impact is special occasions, such as off-campus fund-raising events and concession stands at sporting events. However, if the concession stand is operating during school hours, the food being sold will need to meet nutrition requirements, and schools may choose, on their own, to offer healthier options at these events anyway.
The USD 373 District Wellness Committee plans to focus on healthy lifestyle awareness, such as the inclusion of healthier options when food is served, offered or sold, and incorporating physical activity to a greater extent in the classroom. "It is my hope that family and school will work together to mirror a healthy lifestyle that includes prevention, education, moderation, nutritious foods and enjoyable recreation. USD 373 cannot do this alone; it must be a conscious choice from diverse groups. As a community, we value our healthy quality of life," Bunting said.
Public comment on the new federal rule is being sought until Oct. 28. Share your thoughts at www.regulations.gov.