SNA event to examine school nutrition standards

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition

School nutrition will be in the spotlight next week, when nutrition
professionals and industry members from around the country meet in
Chicago for the School Nutrition Association's (SNA) conference.

The annual event, now into its sixth decade, acts as a forum for discussion, where topics addressed include nutrition standards in schools, marketing and food safety. According to SNA, this year's event, due to take place from July 15-18 at Chicago's McCormick Place, will attract some 6,000 attendees. The event will include over 100 accredited education seminars on topics including food safety, nutrition standards for vended and a la carte foods and beverages, and school wellness policies. In addition, around 400 exhibitors are expected to display 'innovative' foods, snacks and beverages that meet certain nutrition standards. These include fruit and vegetable products, fruit juices, reduced fat snacks and organic snacks. Equipment and technology that contribute to healthy school meal programs will also be on show. As with all areas of child nutrition, the types of foods and beverages available in schools have been under increasing scrutiny in recent years, as a result of growing concerns about childhood obesity and the negative health impacts linked to this. In April this year, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) issued a new report that could lead to a major overhaul of the types of competitive foods allowed in schools - or foods available outside of the federal school meal programs. According to the report, which was met with a flood of approval from nutrition associations and consumer groups, including SNA, the American Society for Nutrition (ASN), and the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), these products should be consistent with the nation's 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) if they are to be allowed at all. Part of a study commissioned by Congress, the report recommends that if competitive foods are available in schools, these should consist of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nonfat or low-fat milk and dairy products. Industry has also shown some initiative in addressing school nutrition. The Alliance for a Healthier Generation, which is supported by major food firms such as Kraft, Mars, PepsiCo, Dannon and Campbell, was set up in 2005, and sets out science-based nutritional guidelines for snacks sold in schools. These promote nutrient-rich foods, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and place limits on calories, fat, saturated fat, trans fat, sugar and sodium. The guidelines also promote the consumption of fruits, vegetables and whole grain foods. Developed in conjunction with nutrition experts at the American Heart Association, the guidelines apply to foods that are not part of the National School Lunch Program and that are offered for sale to students before, during and after the school day through school vending machines, a la carte lines, school stores, snack carts and fundraisers.

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