What's All This Talk About Competitive Foods?
Competitive foods has been the buzz phrase in the food policy social world for a few weeks. You have probably figured out by now that is has something to do with kids, schools, passionate parents, junk food, and cunning lobbyists bribing kids with candy. If so, then you're on the right track. Competitive foods and beverages are those offered in competition with the federally subsidized school meal, and are sold via vending machines, school stores, fundraisers, snack bars operated by the school cafeteria and other outlets.
The Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 directed USDA to update the National School Lunch Program’s meal pattern and nutrition standards based on the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The law was created to make regulations; Now the focus turns to competitive foods. The standing opportunity is to influence the outcome of competitive food regulations that will be chosen for national standards.
Why is this so important?
Well let's look at some statistics.
- 1 in 3 American children are overweight.
- 40% of those children are of Hispanic or African American descent.
- 1 in 5 infants drink soda.
- 50% of overweight children remain overweight adults.
Many children get their most significant meals and snacks of the day during school hours. We then have an opportunity to set them up to really win by providing healthy, nutritious options that don't have to compete with minimally "nutritious" foods. By doing so, we also set teachers up to have healthier students with better attention spans without sugar crashes.
What are the Proposed Nutritional Standards for Competitive Foods?
Snacks must be:
- Either a fruit, a vegetable, a dairy product, a protein food, a "whole-grain rich" grain product (50 percent or more whole grains by weight or have whole grains as the first ingredient).
- A combination food that contains at least 1⁄4 cup of fruit or vegetable.
- Contain 10 percent of the Daily Value (DV) of naturally occurring calcium, potassium, vitamin D, or fiber.
Additional Limits include:
- Fat Total (no more than 35 percent of calories)
- Saturated fat (no more than 10 percent of calories)
- Trans fat (0g as stated on the label) it can have up to
- Half a gram per serving including partially hydrogenated
- Sodium - maximum 200 milligrams for snack items
There are two options for regulating sugar amounts:
1. Cap sugar at no more than 35 percent of calories
2. No more than 35 percent of weight
Exemptions are provided for fruits and vegetables packed in juice or extra-light syrup and for certain yogurts.
And snack items are limited to 200 calories per portion.
Since the new federal regulations will not apply to birthday parties and occasional fundraisers (nor will there be restrictions on artificial ingredients), amended guidelines will have to be implemented on local levels.
How can you help?
Comment. Comment out loud. Comment out strong. There is currently open comment period open to the public for "Nutrition Standards for All Foods Sold in School as Required by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010".
This is the ideal time to ask for what we want!
Click on the image or go to http://yoli.ouiya.com/bagthejunk to submit your comments.
Ask that 50% of grains be "whole grain" NOT "whole grain rich".
"The whole grain term has been watered down since whole grain rich means ½ whole grains, and if things have to be ½ whole grain rich, than that means 26% whole grain," said Amie Hamlin, founder of the New York Coalition for Healthy School Food. The US Dietary Guidelines, which the school meal programs are supposed to emulate, state that our grain intake should be 50% whole grain. The recommendation to get 50% of our grains as whole grains is not new, and we shouldn’t need to wait for 13 years till we get to 50% whole grains from when these recommendations were first made.
Eliminate all artificial colors, artificial flavors, preservatives, artificial sweeteners, and corn syrup from school food.
These ingredients are the hallmarks of processed foods. They do nothing to contribute to health, and their main purpose is for corporate profit.
Eliminate ALL transfats.
Eliminate any "partially hydrogenated" oils as ingredients, not just those foods labeled as “0” grams.
Offer non-dairy milk at every meal for all students to choose from.
60% of the world’s population is lactose intolerant, especially persons of color. Children end up with belly aches and discomfort and find it hard to study, and don't even know it's caused by a meal component that is required to be offered, with no non-dairy equivalent regularly available.
Now that you are informed, how do you feel about these proposed competitive foods regulations?
Yoli Ouiya, Green & Healthy Living Expert and Green Chef, currently operates a green lifestyle website YolisGreenLiving.com, a destination to create a greener, better you.
Photo Credit: Michael Hevesy