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Codifying Progress in Supporting Healthier Schools

Today, the Obama Administration is announcing four final rules that implement key provisions of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) and build on the tremendous progress schools across the country have already made. Integral to First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative to raise a healthier generation, the rules, including Smart Snacks and Local School Wellness Policies, will ensure that children have access to healthy snacks in school, consistent nutrition standards for the foods marketed and served in schools, and integrity across the school meals programs.

"I am thrilled with the progress we continue to make in building healthier learning environments for our kids with science-based nutrition standards for all food sold and marketed in schools. As a mom, I know how hard parents work to provide nutritious meals and snacks to their kids, and we want to make sure we support those efforts with healthy choices at school," said First Lady Michelle Obama. "I am inspired by the tremendous work that's being done in schools across the country to provide our kids healthy food to fuel them throughout the day so that they can grow up healthy and fulfill their boundless promise." 

Here’s a quick summary of the final rules being announced today:

The Smart Snacks in School final rule makes sure that the snacks sold to children during the school day are as nutritious as the school lunches and breakfasts that are served as well. That means they have to meet practical, science-based nutrition standards that ensure children are offered more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Smart Snacks standards have been in place since the 2014-2015 school year, and this final rule makes small improvements to them based on public comments and lessons learned from the past two years of implementation.

The Local School Wellness Policy final rule ensures that the foods and beverages marketed to students promote healthy choices throughout the school day. Therefore, they have to meet the same science-based nutrition standards as Smart Snacks as well as meals served through the School Breakfast Program and National School Lunch Program. In other words, if a food cannot be sold to children in schools, it cannot be marketed to children in schools.  Research shows that 70 percent of elementary and middle school students are exposed to some kind of food/beverage marketing through school. Given that much of food and beverages that are heavily marketed to children contribute to poor diet quality, high calorie intake, and excess weight gain, this is a critical piece of the nutrition puzzle.

The Local School Wellness Policy final rule also empowers communities to take an active role in the health of their children through the development of local school wellness policies. These policies guide a school district’s efforts to establish school environments that support healthy eating and physical activity.

The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) final rule was also posted today. Under HHFKA, CEP allows schools and local educational agencies with high poverty rates to provide free breakfast and lunch to all students to promote access to healthy food and reduce administrative burdens on schools and families. The final rule streamlines administrative processes, making it easier to participate in the meal programs. More than 18,000 schools in high poverty areas currently participate in CEP, which is now in its second year of nationwide implementation offering nutritious meals at no cost to 8.5 million students.

Finally, the Administrative Review final rule updates the administrative review process used by state agencies to monitor federally-funded school meal programs. It safeguards the integrity of the programs, ensures taxpayer dollars are being spent as intended, and increases accountability and transparency by publicly posting how well school food authorities are complying with various requirements. State agencies began implementing the updated review process in school year 2013-2014. Currently, 95 percent of state agencies are already implementing the updated administrative review process. 

The final rules announced today are part of the significant progress we’ve made through the HHFKA where more than 52 million children now have healthier school environments than ever before with over 98 percent of schools meeting the healthier meal standards.

For more information on the rules announced today, go here.