Originally Published: March 12, 2014 8:37 p.m.
Hello Simply Fit readers. As part of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which is meant to provide healthier food options to children, the USDA is now implementing a new standard for all foods and beverages that are sold at schools. This includes vending machines, a la carte, fundraisers, school stores, bake sales... basically ANY food or beverage that is sold on school grounds during the school day. The USDA does give each state the power to allow schools to have a certain number of non-compliant fundraisers, however, Arizona has yet to set that number. As a parent, I am hoping these new standards encourage schools, PTA's, and parents to search out non food fundraising ideas. At the very least, I hope that my kids are not given a box of candy bars, cookie dough, pizza kits, and other types of junk food every time they join a school organization. As a parent in the state of Arizona, I understand that these fundraisers are sorely needed because money that once covered school sports and other school activities is now used to cover other expenses, due to being around 47th in the country for dollars spent on public education. Whether you agree or disagree on how funding is spent on education, you can't deny that Arizona schools receive less funding than 94 percent of all other states in this country! Because of this, kids are asked to help make up the difference by selling food that offers little to no nutritional value in order to play sports, or even be in the National Junior Honor Society. I know I sound harsh, but there is not a single day that I don't see a "junk food" fundraiser at school. Fundraisers are not occasional any more; they are an almost every day occurrence in your children's lives. I completely support having more nutritious foods in school, but I wish the powers that be would look into why we are using our children to sell diabetes in order to have volleyball uniforms or to go on educational field trips. So what can you do to help support your child's school club? Contribute to the Public School Extracurricular Activity (ECA) Tax Credit. This tax credit allows you to give up to $400 for married couples and $200 for individuals toward extracurricular activities or character education programs. Not only will you be helping support your child's -- or any child's -- programs, but you also receive a tax break for that exact amount when you file your taxes. Basically, you are probably going to pay the state of Arizona anyway. Why not tell the state where you want that money to go? My family has contributed every year which has enabled my kids to go on memorable field trips, helped to fund physical education, and even assisted with a school garden. Who knows what bureaucratic program that money would have gone toward if I hadn't contributed to the school tax credit. According to USDA's website: "The Smart Snacks in School" nutrition standards support better health for our kids and echo the good work already taking place in schools across the country. The new standards preserve flexibility for time-honored traditions; like fundraisers and bake sales, and provide ample transition time for schools. USDA is committed to working closely with students, parents, school stakeholders and the food and beverage industries to implement the new guidelines, and make the healthy choice the easy choice for America's young people."Any food sold in schools must: Be a "whole grain-rich" grain product; or Have as the first ingredient a fruit, a vegetable, a dairy product, or a protein food; or Be a combination food that contains at least ¼ cup of fruit and/or vegetable; or Contain 10% of the Daily Value (DV) of one of the nutrients of public health concern in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (calcium, potassium, vitamin D, or dietary fiber).*Foods must also meet several nutrient requirements:Calorie limits: Snack items: ≤ 200 calories Entrée items: ≤ 350 caloriesSodium limits: Snack items: ≤ 230 mg** Entrée items: ≤ 480 mg Fat limits: Total fat: ≤35% of calories Saturated fat: Trans fat: zero grams Sugar limit:≤ 35% of weight from total sugars in foodsBeverage Guidelines:All schools are allowed to sell: Plain water (carbonated or uncarbonated); Unflavored low-fat milk; Flavored or unflavored non-fat milk (and milk alternatives); and 100 percent fruit and vegetable juices, and full-strength juice diluted with water, carbonated or non-carbonated, with no added sweeteners.Portion sizes based on age. Elementary schools may sell up to 8-ounce portions of allowable milk and juice beverages, while middle and high schools may sell up to 12-ounce portions. In high schools, the standards limit the maximum container size to 12-ounces for lower calories beverages and 20 ounces for calorie-free beverages. Additional options for older students.The new standards provide additional beverage options to high school students, recognizing their increased independence, relative to younger students, and the wide range of beverages available to high school students in the broader marketplace. Beyond water, milk and juice, Smart Snacks in School provides additional calorie-free and lower-calorie beverage options for high school students: Calorie-free beverages, in up to 20-ounce portions; and Lower-calorie beverages with up to 40 calories per 8 ounces or 60 calories per 12 ounces. These may be sold in up to 12 ounce portions. Caffeinated beverages remain an option for high school students. The new nutrition standards do not restrict the sale of caffeinated beverages to high school students. USDA encourages school districts to exercise caution when selecting items for sale to their students. USDA will continue to monitor the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) work on caffeine and will consider revising the nutrition standards in the future as appropriate.*On July 1, 2016, foods may not qualify using the 10% DV criteria. **On July 1, 2016, snack items must contain ≤ 200 mg sodium per itemPeace!