06/26/2012 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture has yet to release proposed regulations for what's sold in school vending machines, school cafeteria a la carte lines, and school stores, among other places, regulations that were supposed to be out this spring.
The longer the USDA waits, the longer it will take for the agency to comb through comments it is sure to get by the bushel, delaying the issuing of final regulations and pushing off when schools actually have to start making changes to what food is sold on campus outside of the traditional meals of lunch and breakfast. Consider that the only regulations on the books now about what can be sold at school aside from lunches and breakfasts were issued in 1979 and only applies to food sold in the cafeteria during mealtime. Foods of "minimal nutritional value" are banned.
The 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act ordered the USDA to tackle the nutritional value of these alternate offerings.
"A lot has changed in terms of what we know about nutrition" since then, said Jessica Donze Black, director of the Pew Health Group's Kids' Safe & Healthful Foods Project. Back in the 70s, she said, nearly all the food ever available at school was in the cafeteria. Now, essentially, it's OK to sell sodas at school, even during lunch, so long as the vending machines aren't inside the cafeteria.
The Kids' Safe & Healthful Foods Project and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation teamed up to analyze the effects of changing the makeup of so-called "competitive foods" sold at school. These are foods sold regularly on campus, so it's likely that bake sale fare, as well as chocolates and candy sold as part of school fund-raising efforts won't be affected by the regulations.
Read the full Schooled in Sports blog post, Report: Healthy Vending, A La Carte Foods Won't Hurt School Revenue, on Education Week's website.