WASHINGTON Eighty percent of American voters favor national standards that would limit calories, fat, and sodium in snack and la carte foods sold in U.S. schools and encourage the consumption of fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy items, according to a new poll commissioned by the Kids' Safe & Healthful Foods Project, a joint project of The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is expected to propose such standards in the next few months. It is anticipated that they will apply to snacks and beveragessuch as sugary drinks, salty snacks, pizza, ice cream, and french friesthat can be purchased from vending machines, school stores, and cafeteria la carte lines. Such itemswhich are sold in schools, but are not part of the federal school meal programsare sometimes called "competitive foods," because they compete with school meals for students' spending. The standard that applies to them now is 30 years old and does not reflect current nutrition science.
"Healthier food in schools means healthier kids," said Jessica Donze Black, a registered dietitian and project director for the Kids' Safe & Healthful Foods Project. "Ensuring that all food available to students in schools is nutritious can reduce children's risk for obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure, and help them learn important lessons about staying healthy for life."
Research from USDA shows that, during a typical school day, four in 10 students purchase and consume snack foods or beverages. Data from Bridging the Gap, a research program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, show that such foods are often unhealthy because they are high in fat, sodium, and calories. Despite increasing national attention to the issue of childhood obesity, students' access to snack foods and beverages has increased over the past decade. According to USDA, the availability of vending machines in middle schools has more than d
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