Students in the system may notice a bit of a change in their food options during the 2012-2013 school year, which officially begins today, Aug. 29.
Sharon school officials announced in a recent statement that they plan to comply with new state requirements regarding newly-adapted nutritional standards.
Those standards, which took effect on Aug. 1, are part of the Commonwealth's widespread effort to reduce childhood obesity. As a result, a number of changes will be made to food and beverages made available to students in public schools across the state during the day.
"In 2010, the Massachusetts state legislature passed the ‘Act Relative to School Nutrition’, which directed the Massachusetts Department of Health to develop standards for competitive foods and beverages sold and/or provided in public schools," the statement from Sharon officials, which can be read as a .pdf file attached to this article, reads. "According to the act, the goal of the standards is to 'ensure that public schools offer students food and beverage choices that will enhance learning, contribute to their healthy growth and development, and cultivate life-long healthy eating behaviors.'"
The standards to take place at Sharon Public Schools are as follows:
- Juice must be 100-percent fruit and vegetable juice, with no added sugars and must not be larger than a 4-ounce serving.
- Milk must be low fat (1 percent or less) or fat-free and and cannot be more than an 8-ounce serving with no more than 22 grams total sugar.
- Water cannot have added sugars, sweeteners or artificial sweeteners.
- Beverages cannot contain more than trace amounts of caffeine.
- No other beverages other than juice, milk, milk substitutes and water shall be sold or provided in school.
Food & Snacks
- Foods cannot exceed 200 calories per item and a-la-carte entrees cannot exceed the calorie count of entrée items offered as a part of the National School Lunch programs.
- Foods provided cannot include more than 35 percent of their total calories from fat and no more than 10 percent of total calories from saturated fat. In addition, all foods provided shall be trans fat-free.
- Foods provided cannot have more than 35 percent of total calories from sugars with the only exceptions for 100 percent fruit and low-fat or non-fat yogurt items.
- No food shall contain more than 200 mg of sodium and a la carte entrees shall not contain more than 480 mg of sodium per item.
- All breads and grain-based products shall be whole-grain including crackers, granola bars and chips.
- No food or beverage shall contain artificial sweeteners
The new standards, also dubbed "competitive foods", apply to those food and beverages provided in school cafeterias, school stores, vending machines, concession stands, fundraising activities and other school-related events on school property, according to the statement.
All of those foods need to be in compliance with the standards within the time frame of 30 minutes before the beginning of the school day until 30 minutes after the day has ended. This does not apply to vending machines, which need to comply to the new standards at all times.
"Activities and events that occur in the late afternoon, evening and on weekends do not need to comply with the standards," the statement reads. "In addition, the standards do not pertain to food and/or beverages brought into school by an individual student for their own consumption."
To read the full "Act Relative to School Nutrition", click here.
To help school administrators, as well as parents, implement the new standards, the Commonwealth has released a guidance document titled, "Healthy Students, Healthy Schools: Guidance for Implementing Massachusetts School Nutrition Standards for Competitive Foods and Beverages".