Senator Lisa Murkowski today applauded the United States Department of Agriculture for issuing the final rules of implementing her legislation providing healthier food and beverages inside schools nationwide, as it announced the "Smart Snacks in Schools" program that will take effect in the 2014-2015 school year. USDA's action was required by legislation Senator Murkowski sponsored and which was enacted as part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.
"America's obesity problem has morphed from a national nutritional and fitness concern to an economic crisis, becoming a growing financial drain as more and more medical attention is required," said Murkowski. "We know that obese children too often become obese adults, and by providing them healthier options today, we can improve their quality of life and avoid these preventable expenses tomorrow."
The measures unveiled today ensure all foods sold in schools during the school day reflect the best nutritional science while adding common-sense requirements and flexibility. The new rules also address the food options available in vending machines. While many schools have worked to improve the nutritional value of items sold in vending machines and school stores, rules made final today will ensure that kids and schools see improved quality to choose from.
"Our children learn in health class how to identify nutritional foods, but on the way to the cafeteria they pass vending machines or school stores full of soda and high-fat, high-sodium snacks," said Murkowski. "I was pleased to be able to help ensure that all foods and beverages sold in schools reinforce good nutrition habits and are a consistent message to our kids."
Today's new policy also allows for:
Flexibility for state and local communities through significant local and regional autonomy by only establishing minimum requirements for schools. States and schools that have stronger standards than what is being proposed will be able to maintain their own policies.
Leeway for social traditions by preserving the ability for parents to send their kids to school with homemade lunches or treats for activities such as birthday parties, holidays and fundraisers.
Reasonable limitations on when and where the standards apply by ensuring that standards only affect foods that are sold on school campus during the school day. Foods sold at sporting events or other activities will not be subject to these requirements.
Addressing America's obesity crisis is a priority to Senator Murkowski. In addition to today's announcement, Murkowski also co-sponsored the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act last week and was recently honored by the Campaign to End Obesity's "Breakfast of Champions" for her fight to increase nutrition standards and fitness options nationwide.