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August 27. 2013 10:53PM

Public gets until October to comment on fed's 'Smart Snacks' rule


The vending machine at Bow High School is now stocked with healthy snacks. This semester the school is doing away with unhealthy snacks altogether. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

Raquel Vazquez is director of food services for Chartwell's, a company contracted by the Jaffrey-Rindge School District for the past 10 years.

She said Tuesday she can't remember Conant High School in Jaffrey offering sugar-based beverages through the vending machines over the past decade, which coincides with federal efforts to discourage soda and other sugar-based food and beverages from being sold at schools.

"The USDA has been recommending schools follow healthy guidelines for a la carte items, but up until recently they haven't distinguished what healthy is," Vazquez said. "This is kind of like clarifying what healthy is," she said of Smart Snacks in Schools.

Right now what Chartwell offers to the Jaffrey-Rindge students through its vending machines fits with the new federal regulations.

"If schools are smart, they are going to start changing now because they are effective July 2014," Vazquez said.

Aside from 100 percent juices that are limited to 12-ounce sizes, the new snack guidelines limit beverage calorie counts so that only water and/or lightly sweetened flavored water can be sold, Vazquez said.

Vazquez said she is not thrilled with the juice ounce limit and encourages the public, especially other food directors, to take a close look at the guidelines and comment to the USDA before the public comment period ends.

"It makes it difficult, especially at the high school level; a 12-ounce drink looks kid size and it's 100 percent juice, no high fructose corn syrup. I don't see what is the big deal ... Now's the time for directors all over the country to review and speak their minds and hopefully they'll loosen up a little," she said

The USDA's formal 120-day comment period is open through Oct. 28. To find the standards online, go to http://www.regulations.gov/#!home.


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