Kids may Soon Find Healthier Snacks in School Vending Machines

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Photo Courtesy of jordan.meeterThe United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is expected to release a set of long-delayed guidelines governing the kinds of food the nation’s schools sell to students.

The new regulations cover food sold to students in vending machines, in-school stores and other non-cafeteria venues, Reuters reports. Originally scheduled for late 2011, the enforcement of the new guidelines was pushed back so schools would have time to make adjustments to lunch and breakfast programs. Before the USDA formally issues its final guidelines, a 60-day “public comment period” is expected.

“I would anticipate sometime, hopefully, early in 2013, that we would be in a position to finish the work of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack told Reuters. “But we want to make sure that as we roll this out that we have a receptive audience. 

Vilsack said he expects pushback from beverage manufacturers. Representatives from the Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo, Inc. have already met with the USDA to discuss the proposed regulations, he said.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, beverage and food manufacturers, led by Coke and Pepsi, spent in excess of $25 million in lobbying in 2012.

Nevertheless, snack food manufacturers have been “understanding” and “cooperative” regarding the proposals, Vilsack said.

“They are as concerned as anybody about the obesity issue and hunger issues in this country and they're attempting to reformulate products and create new products that will be more responsive to the concerns,“ he said.

Ultimately, Vilsack said the regulatory proposals are about health care issue, not commerce.

“If we don’t get our arms around this obesity issue,” Vilsack said, “we’re going to see a new generation of young people with chronic diseases that’ll be very expensive to treat.”

Photo Courtesy of jordan.meeter.