Wisconsin News

New USDA food regulations means change for local schools

LA CROSSE, Wis. - Students may no longer be able to buy their favorite candy bar or sports drink from the vending machine at school.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture released new health requirements for all food sold on school property during school hours.

The new guidelines will apply to all food and drinks sold at school.

That includes vending machines, school stores and even some fundraisers.

While some schools will have to make major adjustments, the La Crosse School District is already ahead of the curve.

You'd be hard-pressed to find anything other than a drinking fountain in the hallways at Central High School in La Crosse.


"We've been doing so many changes in the past that were in association with our wellness policy that we're in a good spot to be positioned in our choices for a la carte," said La Crosse School District Nutrition Supervisor Joni Ralph.

Most schools in the La Crosse district have already taken out most of their vending machines, which will make it that much easier to adjust to the requirements.

"The guidelines for the new vending machines are to decrease overall fat, sugar and sodium, which we all know are elements that we need to eat in moderation anyway. The guidelines also have an increase in whole grains, lean proteins, low-fat dairy products, and then fruit and vegetables," said Gundersen Health System Registered Dietitian Maris Pruitt.

Ralph said the guidelines won't kick in for a year, but it will take much longer for new habits to form.

"I think it will take many, many years before people adjust to the changes that are happening with this, for their taste preferences to adapt, for them to really have it make an impact with them, so we're looking at five to 10 years out as to make that significant impact," said Ralph.

"There's going to be a little backlash, a little digging in the heels if you will, but the more we offer those healthy food choices, the more comfortable the child's going to be with eating those," said Pruitt.

Ralph said some of the foods that qualify in their wellness program won't under the new guidelines.

But she said manufacturers are quick to adjust to meet the criteria so their products can be sold in schools.

The new guidelines will not apply to birthday celebrations or holiday celebrations at school.

Certain fundraisers will also be exempt.

For a look at the preliminary regulations visit, http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/governance/legislation/allfoods_summarychart.pdf

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