Smart Snacks In School Puts USDA In Class With Fresh Picks Cafe

New USDA guidelines for offering healthy snacks in schools aim to bring kids across the country what Fresh Picks Café has been serving for over a decade: A variety of snack choices throughout the school day that not only taste good, but also meet the highest nutritional standards.

Released in early February, the “Smart Snacks in Schools” proposal suggests replacing sugary, high-sodium snacks like cookies, cakes and snack bars with whole-grain, lower-fat foods that deliver the nutrients kids need. The proposal draws on recommendations from the Institute of Medicine as well as voluntary measures already in place at Fresh Picks Café.

“We started stocking school vending machines, snack windows and stores with lower-fat/low-sugar snacks and beverages long before it became a government priority,” says district manager, Chris Faro. “Our healthy snack offerings conform with the strictest criteria out there and go hand-in-hand with our nutritionally-balanced school lunch and breakfast program.”

While it would be hard for Fresh Picks Café to achieve higher marks in nutritional value, the USDA guidelines are an opportunity to get creative. “Our chefs have been compiling new recipes with a focus on snacks made from scratch,” says Chris. “We’re cooking up a lot of different, more creative snacks including fruit cups, parfaits, a variety of trail mixes and flavored popcorn.”

What Do You Think About “Smart Snacks in School?”

The USDA proposal is a first step to creating national standards. The public is encouraged to review it and give feedback.  You can view it online at http://www.fns.usda.gov/cga/020113-snacks.pdf, or read the USDA press release providing links to a Q&A and page for submitting comments.

Highlights include:

  • Improving availability of healthy snack foods with whole grains, low fat dairy, fruits, vegetables and protein as main ingredients
  • Ensuring that snack food items are lower in fat, sugar, and sodium
  • Considering age group for recommendations related to factors such as beverage portion size and caffeine content
  • Preserving the flexibility for parents to send in bagged lunches or treats for activities like birthday parties, holidays and other celebrations and schools to offer food at occasional fundraisers and bake sales
  • Ensuring that standards only affect foods sold on school campus during the school day
  • Providing local and regional autonomy by setting only minimum requirements that enable schools and states with stronger standards to maintain their own policies
  • Allowing a transition period giving schools and vendors at least a full school year to adapt, once public comments are considered and implementation rules published