Rage against the machines

Healthier guidelines rolling out for school vending machines
Alissa Widman Neese
Jul 18, 2013


Kids, you’d best ditch your cookies and candy for a fresh fruit cup.

By this time next year, your school-day diet may face some big changes.

In July 2014, schools nationwide will be forced to remove junk food, soda and sugary snacks from their vending machines and a la carte menus, according to recently released requirements from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The goal is to eliminate a gap in nutritional standards that allows students to load up on fat, sugar and salt, despite guidelines for healthy meals. Many students nationwide opt to use lunch money to purchase unhealthy snacks, making the requirements necessary to improve child well-being, nutrition lobbyists say.

The new “Smart Snacks in School” rules will take effect in the 2014-15 school year and will only impact items offered during school hours. Many schools have already proactively implemented the changes.

Locally, most school officials believe their districts will be virtually unaffected by the switch.

The rules logically build on revamped school lunch nutrition standards required by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, said Sue Whitaker, Huron Schools food service director.

“We knew this was coming for four or five years and we’ve made adjustments, so most kids won’t notice anything too different,” Whitaker said.

And at many school districts, including Huron, Norwalk and Edison, vending machines are only available for after-school use anyway, typically for students involved in extracurricular activities.

Other districts, such as Sandusky Schools, do not offer students vending machines at all.

Several snacks can make the national grade if schools provide their healthier counterpart, Whitaker said. Baked potato chips, fruit juices, granola bars and peanuts, for example, are viable substitutes for cookies, sodas and candy.

Nonetheless, districts nationwide could face challenges in implementing the standards.

The new standards pose a fine line, Whitaker warned — foods must be healthy, but students must also actually purchase them for schools to make a profit. The rules don’t apply to packed lunches, treats and snacks students bring from home. They’re also very costly to implement, especially when most districts currently make little or no profit from their lunch programs.

“School lunches used to be just like cooking for your family, you cooked what kids really liked and they ate it and enjoyed it,” Whitaker said. “It’s a little different ballgame now with all the regulations. We manage, but that doesn’t always mean the kids will like it, especially if they’re not used to eating those foods at home.”

Norwalk Schools superintendent Dennis Doughty agreed. His district eliminated pop from its drink vending machines more than a year ago. Students now only have access to water and flavored water after school.

“It’s not that all of these requirements aren’t good, because it’s the opposite,” Doughty said. “But any time you increase nutritional requirements, you’re increasing your bottom line cost, which is what a lot of districts are dealing with right now.”

“Smart Snacks in Schools”nutrition standards Q&A

Q: What do the new standards do?

A: The new standards, required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will require all schools to only provide snacks which meet certain standards for fat, saturated fat, sugar and sodium, while encouraging snacks which have whole grains, low fat dairy, fruits, vegetables or protein foods as main ingredients.

Q: Do the new standards affect snacks or lunches my child brings from home?

A: No.

Q: Do the new standards affect snacks provided or available for purchase at after-school events?

A: No, the standards only apply during school hours.

Q: Why is this necessary?

A: Students are already receiving healthier school lunches, according to standards required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. These standards will put snacks — typically a la carte items and items purchased in vending machines — at the same standards.

Q: Who will be affected?

A: The new standards will be the minimum requirements for all schools nationwide, starting in the 2014-15 school year.



So we now have a war on vending machine and crappy calories in school buildings. When will limitations be put in place for crappy calorie foods bought with a SNAP card at the grocery store?

The Bizness

I agree with you, SNAP recipients should only be able to get while unprocessed food.

The problem with that though is they are a lot less calorie dense than processed foods. You need to eat a lot more carrots to get the same calories you'd get from a bag of chips.


there is not enough EDUCATION to teach our younger generation that carrots, etc. are good. if no one taught you to cook when you were young how would you know that it is cheaper and better for you to cook from scratch. instead of lashing out in anger about how they shop and eat why don't you volunteer to SHOW them how to do it right? start with one person or one family....


Excellent comment! Only certain nutritious foods should be eligible for the SNAP program. No cookies, cakes, potato chips or expensive steaks and seafood. Eligible SNAP foods would have the SNAP label or the SNAP label could be displayed on the shelves next to the prices. I have seen some very obese people using the SNAP card and their food purchase had a lot of junk foods and sugary drinks and soda.

BULLISDEEP's picture


Fri, 07/19/2013 - 12:30am

So we now have a war on vending machine and crappy calories in school buildings. When will limitations be put in place for crappy calorie foods bought with a SNAP card at the grocery store?

Already been tried ,was knocked down .


COST to much


Sandusky does not have vending machines, so no war


because healthy food, fresh fruit and vegtables ,lean meats, fruit juice, and dairy cost twice as much as "crappy" food


Another intrusion into the rights of Americans.


double post


I'll go one more with SNAP cards. They should have special section in stores that they MUST by from that only has the basics needed. No cola, no crab, no lobster or steaks or chips. Much like a state liquor section.




Lets have laws on what people can buy at the store. More government! Its the Republican way!


Steak is meat....get a good sale on it. I agree with the other stuff , though.

Dwight K.

Wish I could buy lobster with my EBT card


True dat Yomamma and dontknowmuch ! I couldn't agree more!

sandtown born a...

We should teach them proper english as well,




Haha! Yes!

Kottage Kat

I am an old lady who buys from local growers in season. NO process foods, all homemade. EBT card user. Have to make my 46.00 stretch. My friends call my house " The Cheap Eats Cafe". No one goes away hungry, I like the challenge of eating well and being frugal.
Wish there weremore stringent guidelines for EBT purchases, and classes on how to shop wisely and well.
It can and should be done

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Classes like Home Economics (and just regular Economics/Accounting) should be mandatory. They teach lessons that affect all strata of society and will encourage resourcefulness, frugality, and the ability to control and invest any money you receive from any source. I enjoyed learning biology and calculus in high school, but I have much fonder and more applicable memories and lessons from those kinds of classes.


Why do some of you care what someone else buys with their SNAP card? You think they are all free loaders who don't work, so what do you care what they eat? I don't want to hear about your taxes paid for the SNAP card. The little amount of taxes you pay compared to the country as a whole is an ant on a mountain. Take care of yourself, don't judge others by what they buy a the store. Get a life.