Janesville schools to implement Smart Snacks program July 1

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Nick Crow
Thursday, May 22, 2014

JANESVILLE — Thinking of making triple fudge brownies for the next PTA bake sale?

Think again if your child attends classes in the Janesville School District.

The district will begin the Smart Snacks program July 1. The United States Department of Agriculture developed the initiative to limit sugar, fat, sodium and calories in food sold during the school day, said Jim Degan, manager of food services for the district.

“The goal is healthier kids,” Degan said. “I don't think anyone can argue that.”

The guidelines regulate contents of school vending machines as well as the sale of food for clubs and fundraisers.

“This won't affect birthday treats, just what's sold in school,” Degan said. “It also excludes food at football and basketball games. It only applies to food during the school day.”

The Department of Agriculture mandates food:

-- Be rich in whole grains

-- Have fruit, vegetable, dairy product or protein listed as the first ingredient on the food's nutrition label

-- Contain fewer than 200 calories for snacks or 350 calories for entrees.

-- Have less than 230 milligrams of sodium for snacks and less than 480 milligrams for entrees.

-- Derive less than 35 percent of calories from fat, less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fat and have no trans fat.

-- Contain less than 35 percent sugar by weight.

The revisions are part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, said Degan, who is president of the School Nutrition Association of Wisconsin.

“The changes are good,” Degan said. “They make sense. There are some rough issues, but that's always the case when making changes.”

In 2011-12, about 17 percent of American children and adolescents aged 2 to 19 were obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Degan doesn't anticipate a drastic change to the contents of vending machines in schools but said portions could get smaller.

“Companies are making changes, too,” Degan said. “The most difficult thing is sodium amounts. It affects taste buds. There will always be McDonald's, but we won't be that way.”

Renae Henry, president of the Janesville Area Council PTA, said she doesn't expect the transition to healthier foods will be difficult for parents.

“As far as PTA membership is concerned, we advocate for health in the children's best interest,” Henry said. “As far as me being a mom, I like knowing my sons aren't going to load up on junk food during the day.”

The Janesville Area Council PTA will hold a workshop Saturday, June 28, to discuss the changes with the 13 PTAs it represents.

“We will be providing information and answering questions so the membership can be better informed in September,” Henry said.

The district will get exemptions for infrequent fundraisers, Degan said. The district will find out next week from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction how many it will receive.

“The School District of Janesville was very proactive,” Degan said. “We knew what the changes were going to look like and have prepared for them. We have excellent staff that care about the kids and have taken the time and effort to find out about the changes and why we're making them.”

Foods meeting the department's guidelines can be sold at any time by fundraising groups. A move that could lead to a substantial increase in vegetable and fruit stands at schools, Degan said.

“A lot of changes have taken place, and they are very positive,” Degan said. “We just want to get the information out there and get everyone on the same page. The good thing is there is a lot of choices out there. There's probably going to be something out there you're going to like.”

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