OTTUMWA — This fall, students across the country will find big changes in the cafeteria, but Ottumwa kids may find they approve of the changes.
The new "Smart Snacks in School" standards from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) went into effect July 1, keeping food service employees in school districts nationwide busy modifying their menus and portion sizes.
However, all Iowa school districts are finding the USDA regulations are more relaxed that the State of Iowa Healthy Kids Act, which was signed by former Iowa Gov. Chet Culver on May 13, 2008. The act required school districts to ensure physical activity for all grades through the school day as well as setting nutritional content standards for food and beverages sold or provided to students during the school day.
“Iowa’s regulations were actually stricter than the healthy USDA rules. They have allowed us to bring in some foods that we weren’t allowed to before,” said Yvonne Johnson, Ottumwa’s Food Service Director, “which is better for the kids in my opinion. It gives them more choices.”
The new standards are allowing the Ottumwa Community School District to bring in diet soda, as long as it fits the sugar and sodium restrictions laid out by the USDA. Johnson is still unsure if the school district is going to begin supplying this in cafeterias, but it is now a possibility.
Ottumwa students will not have to say goodbye to any of their favorite a la carte snacks this upcoming school year.
"The State of Iowa Healthy Kids Act nutrition standards, which have been in effect in Iowa schools since 2010, has been amended and are now equivalent to the USDA Smart Snacks in School standards," said Ann Feilmann the Chief of the Bureau of Nutrition and Health Services for the Iowa Department of Education.