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Goodbye to sodas, potato chips, candy bars and sugary sports drinks sold in Florida schoolsGoodbye to sodas, potato chips, candy bars and sugary sports drinks sold in Florida schools

Paula Thaqi, MD, Director, Florida Health Department for Broward County

Nutrition standards removed a lot of the less healthy food from vending machines, snack bars and stores in the schools.

The new rules aim to cut calories, fat and sugar from the snacks available to children, due to increasing rates of childhood obesity. Children from Caribbean families have higher rates of obesity than average in Florida. Under the new rules, food items on campus are now healthier.
“This is a big change, and it’s not easy,” says Darlene Moppert, a registered dietician and manager of Nutrition Education and Training for Broward County Public Schools. “The District is doing all we can to make foods available during the school day that are healthier for our students.”
Florida schools cafeterias already changed their meals to meet upgraded nutrition standards, which were passed by Congress. Now, so-called competitive food items sold in vending machines and other venues must comply, too. The items must meet at least one of four nutritional standards:
  • At least 50 percent of grains are whole grains.
  • The first ingredient must be fruit, vegetables, dairy or protein.
  • Contain at least ¼ cup of fruit and vegetables.
  • Contain at least 10 percent of the recommended daily amount of calcium, potassium, vitamin D or fiber.

In addition, snacks must contain no more than 200 calories per serving, no more than 35 percent of calories from fats (no more than 10 percent from saturated fats), and no more than 35 percent of net weight from sugar. Elementary and middle schools can sell only water, low-fat milk or 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice. High schools may also sell lower-calorie sports drinks.

“This is definitely a change in a positive direction and we hope that standards will continue to move in the direction of good health for all youth,” says Ellen Feiler, Director of Health Promotion and Social Marketing at the Florida Department of Health in Broward County. She is chair of the Nutrition and Fitness Task Force of Broward County.

Some Florida schools principals and food sellers have expressed concerns that the new standards may decrease vending machine sales, which supplement school budgets to support other student activities. Moppert says the sales are expected to rebound as students embrace healthier snacks.

Nutrition advocates say the standards could be stronger. First, the rules do not apply starting 30 minutes after school ends through midnight, which allows schools, parents and organizations to sell less healthy foods at after-school games and events to raise money.

Second, principals can waive the rules so students and organizations can sell less healthy food during fundraisers to support their clubs and activities. High schools can allow fundraisers on 15 days per year, middle schools 10 days and elementary schools 5 days. Fundraisers may not start until 30 minutes after the last lunch period.

Says Feiler: “Eating habits start at a young age and usually last a lifetime. It’s important to encourage healthy eating from the beginning.”

For more information : www.freshfromflorida.com, search “smart snacks”.

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