Live Well
April 2013

How to Get Better Snacks in School

By Amy Kalafa

When my daughter was in middle school I was dismayed to discover that instead of buying lunch, the school allowed her to buy Pop Tarts®, Rice Crispy® treats, Snapple® drinks, and cake with her lunch money. I learned that federal regulations governing school food don’t apply to the snacks and junk food sold in school cafeterias and vending machines. So schools can make money by selling junk food to our kids.

That is about to change. The USDA will soon announce guidelines for “competitive” foods sold in schools — that is, all the food that competes with school meals, which are already regulated by the National School Lunch Program. The new snack food guidelines are important, but unfortunately they will still leave enough wiggle room for food manufacturers to reformulate junky snacks into smaller portion sizes or fortify them with a few more vitamins. Which is why it’s so important for parents to get involved at the local level.

The USDA requires every school district to have a Wellness Policy that addresses the quality of food sold in schools. That policy must be reviewed and evaluated each year by a Wellness Committee made up not only of school administrators and food service employees, but also parents, students, teachers and members of the community — which might include local chefs, farmers and health professionals — and you! As a parent on a Wellness Committee, you can help determine your school’s snack policy.

Here’s some examples of snack policies I’ve seen:

  • All snacks sold in school or offered in the classroom will be from an approved list of snack items
  • Only snacks from non-GMO sources will be sold
  • Snack foods will have no hydrogenated oils, artificial colorings, or flavorings
  • District will have a preference for snacks that are whole foods rather than packaged bars, chips, or cookies

Ask your school administration how to get on the Wellness Committee — and be prepared — the process can be challenging, but if you stick with it, you will find many allies. A Well- ness Committee populated by advocates can make a huge difference in the quality of all the food sold in your local school.

And even if you don’t have time to sit on a committee, you can still make a difference. Show up at a school meeting and support the committee’s recommendations. Volunteer to set up a healthy snack demonstration-day in the school cafeteria, or be the snack coordinator for your child’s classroom. You may think you are the only one who cares about this, but once you get the ball rolling other parents will come out of the woodwork to thank you!

Healthy Snack Options for Kids

Despite the temptation of junk food at school, my daughters make mostly healthy snack choices these days. Here are some of their favorites:

  • Rice cakes with nut or sunflower butter and berries on top
  • Cut up or sliced fruit on a stick
  • Raw veggies — cauliflower, cherry tomatoes, string beans, sliced cucumber, carrot sticks, snap peas — with hummus dip
  • Same as above with guacamole, bean dip, or vinaigrette
  • Ants on a log — celery with nut or sunflower and raisins
  • Non GMO popcorn
  • Trail mix — any combination of seeds, dried fruits, coconut flakes, nuts (optional), and a few chocolate chips
  • Sliced hard-boiled eggs
  • Mini salads with chopped lettuce, avocado, apple, chopped hard-boiled egg and sprouts
  • Fruit smoothies with yogurt, nut butter, or coconut milk

For a detailed list of great snack foods for schools, check out the Wellness Policy chapter in my book, Lunch Wars: How to Start a School Food Revolution. For more about Amy, check out www.angrymoms.org

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I am always on a quest to make simple yet healthy snacks for my kids and these Sunbutter® Snack Balls are a big hit… Try this simple recipe.

qotm

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