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USDA’s School Lunch Program Moves to Limit Unhealthy Snacks

Anyone who has visited a convenience store near a school lately knows that snacks on campus have grown a little thin lately. At a C-Store near a suburban Denver high school, the students line up in to be let into the retail business only in “controlled waves.”

The demand for sugary sodas and snacks off campus comes because they’ve been largely banned on campus already. Now the federal government has gotten into the act with 160 pages of regulations aimed to limited at what can be sold during school hours on campus in vending machines or stores.

It’s all being done under the USDA’s National School Lunch Program, which is telling more than 100,000 schools to either limit snack offerings on campus or lose your share of the $11 billion program.

But most school districts around the country have already been through at least one round of soda- and snack-limiting activities, causing most to think that complying with the new rules won’t be that difficult.

The new regulations are going to be subject of a 60-day comment period as soon as they are published in the Federal Register.

USDA is providing what it calls a “national baseline” for snacks in schools under the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010, a measure supported by First Lady Michelle Obama to combat childhood obesity.

Nutrition officials are not going to deal with whatever might be sold during after school events or what parents put into bagged lunches.

School lunches have been a hot topic in recent months, as the USDA imposed new standards to encourage children to eat more fruits and vegetables. But the federally run program had to back off from initial calorie limits and local programs expressed concern about food waste and cost.

This story and headline have been updated.

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