New Standards Target Junk Food in School Vending Machines

Updated: 06/28/2013 7:46 AM By: Stephen Tellier

First, it was a major school lunch change. Now, school vending machines are facing a federal overhaul, as junk food will soon make way for healthier snacks.
The new standards announced on Thursday would certainly make most school vending machines healthier. But will they make kids healthier?
It's barbecue night at the Rust residence. But there, burgers are never served without broccoli, beans, and a big bowl of fruit.
"It helps when the parents eat the vegetables -- the kids want to eat it too," said Nancy Rust, a mother and a school nutrition consultant.
Nutrition consumes her professional and personal lives. She raised her two children, Maddie and Jack, on a steady diet of healthy eating.
"Every time I went to the grocery store, I tried to point out different fruits and vegetables," Rust said.
She said taking the junk food out school vending machines is the right selection.
"They don't need all that empty calorie, high fat, high sodium," Rust said.
The new federal standards stress whole grains, fruits, and vitamins, and set strict limits on calories, sodium, fats, and sugars. That means cookies, candies, donuts, chocolate, and soda will make way for peanuts, light popcorn, low-fat chips, granola bars, and fruit cups.
"I do believe they're a very important part of our overall goal of prevention and wellness," said Shannon Tierney, a clinical dietitian with Allina Health.
Tierney said the standards are a step in the right direction, but that she understands it's not just about what kids are eating at school.
"However, if we can reiterate the importance of healthy eating and healthy choices in the school, it's a great learning environment," Tierney said.
Still, Rust said the first learning environment has to be a child's own back yard.
"It's the parents that need to instill it in their kids. They need to be good role models," Rust said.
The federal government is giving schools until next fall to comply with the new standards. But some Minnesota schools have already made similar changes inside their vending machines in recent years, and the state currently has a few other programs of its own aimed at improving school nutrition.