The United States Department of Agriculture has officially mandated that on July 1st, 2014 schools will not be allowed to sell what they deem ‘unhealthy junk food’ in their vending machines, student stores or cafeteria. Even school bake sales are off limits in a ruling that has good intentions, but has parents and students alike slightly confused. Many of the foods listed on the banned list aren’t necessarily unhealthy when consumed in moderation.

The USDA has come with a list that is extremely specific. Foods being sold commercially through the school must be fruits, dairy products, vegetables, and whole grain. A few of the rules are a max limit of 200 calories for snacks and sides, 350 calories for what is considered entrées.

Another specific ruling is:

Exception until July 1, 2016 – A food is allowed if it contains a minimum of 10% of the Daily Value of calcium, potassium, Vitamin D or fiber Nutrient Standards

This gives ample time for big food business companies to develop “fortified” versions of their products that can still be sold. “Junk food” won’t be leaving the cafeterias, what is there will be replaced by a version that meets the minimum guidelines.

'Unhealthy' snacks in vending machines are now banned on school grounds. Deymos Photo /

‘Unhealthy’ snacks in vending machines are now banned on school grounds.
Deymos Photo /

Public schools have been putting food service directors in a tough place because certain foods like for instance homemade granola, do not meet these guidelines because almonds have too high of a fat content. The guidelines are actually extremely tight, and make it extremely difficult to find natural products that fit.

On the surface this sounds like a good idea, but it falls short of actually helping the kids. It does a great job of allowing further research into fortifying big food business’ product through science. It does not help to bring locally farmed food, as well as natural products into the school system. It comes back to money, lobbyists, and big business. It should be focusing on the students, the farmers, and providing unprocessed, healthy food to the next generations.

One could make the argument that this is an initiative that would be much more positive if it was done on a local, county by county level, rather than stemming down from the Federal Government.