It all began, reports the Wall Street Journal, with “the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act championed by first lady Michelle Obama and her ‘Let’s Move!’ campaign” against childhood obesity. That law imposed strict new nutrition standards on schools participating in federal school meals programs — standards that proved so expensive and unpopular that some schools have stopped adhering to them.
“The law also required the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to set standards for all food and beverages sold during the school day, which includes vending machines, snack carts and daytime fundraisers,” the Journal adds.
The vending-machine rules have already ensnared at least one school. The feds demanded that Davis High School in Kaysville, Utah, return its entire $15,000 school lunch subsidy because a soda machine in the school bookstore was kept running during the lunch period. The fine was later reduced to just under $1,300.
As of July 1, however, these requirements will also be enforced on fundraisers and other school-day activities, with states having the power to assess fines on noncompliant schools. That means, for example, that “buttery, salty popcorn” is out, says the Journal. “Kernels sold on site during the day must contain no more than 230 milligrams of sodium per serving until 2016, when it drops even lower. No more than 35% of calories in an item can come from total fat.” Needless to say, nearly all baked goods and candies fail to meet the standards and thus will be banned; some schools have already prohibited the sale of boxes of Girl Scout cookies. And because homemade food doesn’t come with nutritional labeling, “the result of the new requirements may be more processed-food products,” the paper writes. Could this be why many processed-food manufacturers’ groups, such as the Snack Food Association, lobbied for a bill that would at first glance seem inimical to their interests?
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