New rules for school snacks
Most candy bars, sugary cookies and sodas could soon be banned from school vending machines. As YNN's John Wagner explains, a USDA proposal may make kids healthier, but not happier.
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POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. -- To combat childhood obesity and ensure kids are eating well, the federal government wants to regulate all food sold in schools. Poughkeepsie's food service director says they've already switched to baked, healthier vending options over the last four years, but under the USDA proposal, they would still need to reduce the size of their drinks to twelve ounces or fewer.
"I'd much rather have the children spend the money on a meal than on all these snacks," said Alan Muhlnickel, City of Poughkeepsie Schools Food Service Director.
All kids in the district get free lunch, but Poughkeepsie pays sixty cents more on a meal than the government hands over. Vending machines work as a necessary evil to help cover the difference.
Muhlnickel said, "I'd much prefer to sell nothing, but that means the children would get less quality food, less choices, less everything, so it's a balancing act."
Under the rules, elementary and middle schools could sell only water, low-fat milk or 100 percent fruit juice. Most snacks would stay under 200 calories and sodium, sugar and fat would be limited.
"I see what they're trying to do and everything, but it takes away a lot of the kids’ freedoms," parent Antoine Mckinnon.
"Give more afterschool programs that, you know, make the kids move around. I think that's probably better than trying to regulate vending machines," said parent Terry Pryear.
Fundraisers and after school events would be exempt. Nutrition laws have good intentions, locals say, but the results may vary.
Muhlnickel said, "They're just going to force the children to stop at the little bodega down the road and buy what they want."
"Keeping the kids safe at the vending machine is better than them constantly going to the store," Pryear said.
Schools still can't shove fruit or vegetables down anyone's throat.
"Some kids are just going to be fat and I don't think a vending machine is going to stop it, sorry," said Pryear.
Critics have sixty days to comment before the rules are finalized, going into effect as early as the 2014 school year.