Schools prepare for federal 'healthy snack' requirement
School Nutrition Director Allison Niedbala with the vending machine at Bow High School. During the last semester, Bow hired EcoVending of Manchester to provide nutritional snacks. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)
"I have definitely seen a shift to the more all-natural spectrum as to what they are offering in the vending machines," he said Tuesday.
A Snapple-like drink is about the unhealthiest option sold in the vending machines at school, he said.
Though most high schools have been shifting toward healthier vending machine fare in the past decade, new federal guidelines will start enforcing healthier choices in the fall of 2014.
The new rules fall under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which required the USDA to establish nutrition standards for all foods sold in schools, beyond the federally supported meals programs.
When Niedbala first started working at the Bow schools 14 years ago, the three high school vending machines sold sodas, candy and other types of junk foods, she said.
Bow High School's Coca-Cola vending machine was replaced by one that sold water and Gatorade.
Another machine has been replaced by a vending machine that sells The Switch fruit punch, made of concentrated juices and sparkling filtered water, along with healthier snack options such as energy bars, baked potato chips and trail mix.
Being able to offer energy bars and other high protein snacks is ideal, Niedbala said, since students that stay after school for sports and other activities need the boost.
Schools have till the 2014/2015 school year to comply with the new federal rules, so Niedbala is making the transition in steps.
Students have already had to adjust to new federal rules regarding school lunches.
"And not only did the kids like it, it was a money-maker, so when you take that away, there was some outrage, some backlash," Niedbala said.
Like Murphy at Keene High School, she doesn't ever remember soda being sold in the school vending machines, she said.
"I think the worst thing they have is the Rice Krispy Treats," Ennis said.
"They are pretty healthy choices and they are affordable if you are stuck there after school if you can scrape together 75 cents you can get something," Ennis said.
"They'll just go home and eat their Ring Dings," Niedbala said. "It really starts at home. We can only do so much."
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