Poll finds parents overwhelmingly support more nutritious school food; USDA expected to issue new guidelines

Photo by Reuters’ Lucy Nicholson

Chocolate bars, Cheetos and cheesy fries may soon be a thing of the past at public schools in America, and that’s fine with parents, a new poll has found.

The survey found “most people agreed the chips, soda and candy bars students buy from vending machines or school stores in addition to breakfast and lunch are not nutritious, and they support a national standard for foods sold at schools,” reports Susan Heavey for Reuters.

As it did for school lunch earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is expected to release new guidelines for vending machines and à la carte sales by June, some experts say.

In Kentucky, schools are already not allowed to sell food that competes with the national school lunch and breakfast programs from the minute students arrive in the morning until 30 minutes after the last lunch period. Only water, 100 percent fruit juice, lowfat milk and any beverage that contains no more than 10 grams of sugar per serving are allowed to be sold in school vending machines, as per state mandate. There are no limits as to what food or drinks that can be sold in fundraisers.

The poll, conducted by advocacy group Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project, found 80 percent of the 1,010 adults surveyed said they would support nutritional standards that limit the calories, fat and sodium in such schools.

Students eat one-fifth to one-half of their daily diet at schools, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report 20 percent of American children are obese, As of 2007 in Kentucky, more than 37 percent of children were either obese or overweight, a study by the National Conference of State Legislatures shows.

A study by the National Academy of Sciences reports that about $2.3 billion worth of snack food and drinks are sold each year in schools nationwide. As such, changes might be controversial. The new guidelines for school lunch met with resistance from lawmakers, who “locked limits to french fries and counted pizza as a vegetable because it contains tomato sauce,” Heavey reports.  There are concerns industry lobbyists and members of Congress could dilute the USDA proposals. (Read more)

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