TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas State Board of Education on Tuesday digested the potential impact of proposed new federal rules that regulate the nutrition content of snacks available in public schools.
The rules were announced this summer by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and govern schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program. The changes are part of the federal agency’s push to make school nutrition healthier and to reduce the number of children who are obese.
Cheryl Johnson, director of the state education department’s nutrition programs, told the board that parents, educators and board members have until Oct. 28 to submit comments to the USDA about the rule changes. She said that process has been slowed by the partial federal government shutdown, which is affecting the USDA’s commenting website.
The rules will take effect July 1, 2014, following any changes made by the USDA, and Johnson said the Kansas board would be asked to amend its existing wellness and nutrition policies to reflect the changes.
“We’ll see how it goes this year,” Johnson said. “It’s going to involve a lot of training and technical assistance.”
The rules cover items sold in vending machines but exempt sports concession sales and events such as food sales after school. Johnson said the changes wouldn’t apply to snacks brought by students or parents for class functions, such as holiday or birthday parties. The changes set limits on the amount of fat, sodium and calories that snacks could contain.
However, board member Carolyn Campbell of Topeka questioned what the impact would be on student groups that use bake sales or other food events to raise money for their activities.
“We’re going to penalize our young people and whatever program they are trying to enjoy,” Campbell said.
Johnson said other states were commenting about this concern and that each state and district would likely have some latitude from the USDA over what activities and how many could be exempt from the new rules. However, she said it wasn’t clear if that meant bake sales would count as one exemption or each group seeking a bake sale would have to ask seek an exemption.
“We’re going to need to talk with all of our surrounding states to see what they are doing. We’d like to see the USDA step in and offer some guidance,” she said.