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Harkin Statement on the "Smart Snacks in School" Regulations

June 27, 2013

Harkin Statement on the "Smart Snacks in School" Regulations

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) issued the following statement today after the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that under the new "Smart Snacks in School" nutrition standards, America's students will be offered healthier food options during the school day. Harkin is the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) and the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health, and Human Services.  Prior to his HELP chairmanship, Harkin was the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.  Harkin was also the author of the Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act, which was enacted into law as part of the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010, and which provided the authority under which USDA promulgated the Smart Snacks in School Regulations.

“Prodded by parents who rightly want schools to support their efforts to raise healthy kids, we’ve made steady progress in improving the nutrition environment in American schools.  In 2002, Congress created the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program to provide free fresh fruits and vegetables to high poverty elementary schools.  In the last several years, schools have worked hard to improve the nutritional quality of school meals.  And now, with the release of a final rule on smart snacks, we’ll put in place common sense nutrition guidelines for snack foods and beverages sold in school stores, vending machines, and snack bars, closing a loophole that for too long has undermined the health and nutrition of our kids.

“With these standards in place, parents can rest assured that their child’s lunch won’t consist of a sugary drink, a bag of chips, and a candy bar.  To the credit of state legislatures, parents, school administrators, and the food and beverage industry, full calorie sodas have been disappearing from our schools.  This rule goes a step further by also limiting high calorie sports drinks, a step recommended several years ago by the Institute of Medicine.  It also puts in place reasonable portion sizes for all beverages in schools.

“In addition to limiting things like sugar, fats, and calories, the rule importantly also requires that school foods include a positive contribution by including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, or dairy products.  This moves the public health conversation beyond one that is based just on restrictions toward a positive conversation that stressed the kinds of foods that all of us should be eating more of.

“For years, the junk food loophole in our schools has been big enough to drive a soda delivery truck through.  In closing that loophole today, we take a giant step forward in creating a healthy school atmosphere that not only promotes the health of our children, but which also promotes the learning and development of our kids in general.  I am grateful to all of the stakeholders – the public health community, education groups, certain food and beverage companies, and the Department of Agriculture – for working so hard to bringing this rule to fruition.”