USDA changes bring healthier options to school vending machines - KCTV5

USDA changes bring healthier options to school vending machines

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The snacks your kids buy at school are about to change in a big way. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has new guidelines on what is offered in several locations inside school buildings.

Most vending machines are loaded with sodas, chips and candy. Those aren't horrible food items but, unfortunately, a lot of students are choosing to turn to vending machines for their meals.

But starting as early as next year, kids won't be able to grab a bag of candy from the vending machine because they'll be just as regulated as cafeteria lines.

A hot meal can be one of the most important things schools offer their students, but the content of those meals feeds the ongoing fight over childhood obesity.

"Usually we eat something like pizza, corn dogs, fries," said Jarrell Brown, a student at The Paseo Academy.

The Federal Agriculture Department said Thursday it's launching the most ambitious plan yet to make all food options in the country's 100,000 schools healthier, with tighter limits on fat, calories, sugar and sodium.

The changes won't just include cafeteria lines, but vending machines and concession stands will be regulated as well.

University of Kansas Pediatric Dietician Kelsey Dean said that across the board change is key.

"Even if they are wanting to eat healthy, the cookies and the pizza, it's just so tempting that it's hard to choose the healthy thing when that's available," Dean said.

She said making the healthy option the easier and more readily available choice is the key, so the new rules, in place as early as next year, don't just cut unhealthy foods, they add to healthy ones in schools.

Those involved say the changes will help parents enforce what many already know – that a well-fed child grows, learns and behaves better.

The law especially targets high-calorie sports drinks and sodas. They won't be allowed at all elementary and middle schools and in high schools only those with 60 calories or less will be allowed.

The rules are part of a child nutrition law passed by Congress in 2010. The law also provided more money for schools to serve free and reduced-cost lunches to kids in need who are going hungry.

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