No More Skittles or Flamin’ Hot Cheetos At Schools

The feds have taken their fight to reduce childhood obesity and promote healthy eating habits in our kids from the school cafeteria to the school vending machines.

On June 27, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced new rules effectively banning the sale of snack foods like candy, cookies and sugary drinks, including sports drinks, in schools, making it harder for students to avoid the now-healthier school meals by eating snacks sold in vending machines.

That means that when schools open for the 2014 – 2015 school year, vending machines will have to be stocked with things like whole wheat crackers, granola bars and dried fruits, instead of Skittles, Cheese Nips and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.

Under the guidelines, all snack items offered for sale during the school day must contain fewer than 200 calories and comply with restrictions on sugar, fat and sodium content. A la carte entree items may contain up to 350 calories. Water, flavored water, milk, fruit juices and diet sodas are the only drinks allowed.

The Department of Agriculture (USDA) does not have the authority to rule on birthday cupcakes and other treats brought from home, although many school districts have instituted their own rules on these items. However, Vilsack did stress that the rules will not affect after-school activities such as sporting events.

Nutritionists say that school vending machines stocked with potato chips, cookies and sugary soft drinks contribute to childhood obesity, which has more than tripled in the past 30 years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that about one in every six children is obese.

“Parents and schools work hard to give our youngsters the opportunity to grow up healthy and strong, and providing healthy options through school cafeterias, vending machines and snack bars will support their great efforts,” Tom Vilsack, the agriculture secretary, said in a statement.

The idea of regulating the contents of vending machines is not new: about half of U.S. states have already adopted some restrictions, including policies that limit the times or types of competitive foods available for sale in vending machines, cafeterias, school stores and snack bars. Most states restrict access to competitive foods when school meals are being served. Five states restrict access to vending machines all day long.

But these new rules will force all public schools to limit what’s available to their students during the school day.

As a high school teacher, I applaud the effort to raise awareness of healthy eating habits in teenagers. Sadly, I can already hear their comments: “There’s nothing to eat here!” Ah well, it will take some time to retrain their taste buds.

Hopefully parents won’t react the same way some mothers in the UK did. After Jamie Oliver promoted healthy school food there, several moms took to buying soft drinks, burgers, pies and french fries and pushing them through the fence surrounding their children’s school into the outstretched hands of their youngsters.

From The New York Times:

“By teaching and modeling healthy eating habits to children in school, these rules will encourage better eating habits over a lifetime,” said Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which worked on the legislation. “They mean we aren’t teaching nutrition in the classroom and then undercutting what we’re teaching when kids eat in the cafeteria or buy food from the school vending machines.”

Health advocates are taking the same approach to curb the consumption of fatty, sugary and salty foods that they did to reduce smoking: educating children in the hopes that they will grow up healthier and perhaps pass along healthy eating behavior to their parents

Teachers, watch out! We also need to model healthy eating habits for our students to make this work.

Photo Credit: kswx_29

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Stacey Toda
Stacey Toda2 years ago

I never had vending machines at school until I went to college.

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill2 years ago

They should take ALL vending machines out of all schools!

Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener2 years ago

Bye bye, thneeds!

Amanda M.
Amanda M.2 years ago

Good riddance to bad rubbish! Schools have no business selling junk food in their vending machines or in their a la carte section at lunch, and kids need to be eating healthier food in order to maintain health and brain function.

Angela Roquemore
Angela Roquemore2 years ago

They didn't have vending machines at all until I got to middle school, either, Sandi C.

Danuta Watola
Danuta Watola2 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Gale & Mark Eri Johansen
Gale Johansen2 years ago

Well with the exception of the diet soda I don't object to these limits. The one issue I have is that we need to make sure that there are both decent, healthy, affordable, and filling meals and healthy snacks. While overweight and obese adolescents may need to limit their intake those of normal weight who are active may need additional calories sometimes. Children and adolescents that are "too" hungry don't function or learn well.

Samantha M.

In Texas our kids crappy menu serves exactly the same greasy flavorless food, the only difference is the portion size. They reduced the lunch portions by 50% and increased child hunger in poverty stricken homes by 75%. Great job!

Sandi C.
Sandi C.2 years ago

didn't have any of this when I was at school.

Scott haakon
Scott haakon2 years ago

This is another of the "nanny" government's interference in the pubic's life. Another reason these things need to be vetted thru congress. Although is is lees strict than last year's fiasco it still deprives many of the calories that they really need. Because not everyone's metabolism is the same this ignores the reality of many for the brainstorm of the ruling party. Eating better is a farce. The school needs to concentrate of teaching not what the kids like to eat.