Healthy School Snacks

I read an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday and then perused lots of background information on the Web. The article itself described the challenges of designing a vending machine that could dispense healthier snacks, especially for schools. I had heard that many school districts and even some states were concerned about the obesity epidemic and wanted to quit offering candy bars and sugared sodas. It's not that easy.

One company now offers a vending machine with two major compartments, one for bananas and the other for fresh-cut fruits and veggies. The banana compartment is kept at 57 degrees and the other area at 34 degrees.  They're working on the issue of keeping the fruit, especially the bananas, from getting bruised when it's selected and falls to the delivery area.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest has a website which I found by Googling "Healthy School Snacks." They noted that over a nineteen-year period (1977 to 1996), our kids' calorie consumption from snacks had increased by 120 calories per day. That's roughly equivalent to a ten pound a year weight gain.

They estimated that cost of serving fresh, frozen or canned fruits and veggies would be about 25 cents a day. That's a lot less than their estimates for single-serving bags of potato chips at 69 cents or candy bars at 80 cents.

They gave some suggestions for kid-friendly snacks, including a clever recipe for "Ants on a Log." made by spreading peanut butter on celery sticks and adding raisins.

Then I found the December 2009 Massachusetts Food and Beverage Standards to Promote a Healthier School Environment. They mention the national Action for Healthy Kids (AFHK) initiative ( That website is well worth looking at, but I concentrated on the Massachusetts plan itself.

A survey done in Massachusetts in 2005 showed over a quarter of students at risk for overweight or already overweight. So state officials and a bevy of advisors were concerned about so-called "competitive foods," which often are high in fats and sugars.  These are sold in vending machines, in school stores or in fundraisers and compete with the well-regulated school lunch and breakfast programs.

Now the state has published a set of well-reasoned guideline for various foods and beverages that might be offered in the schools. The John Stalker Institute website has links for the information.

Take a look, whether you have kids or grandkids in school or not. We need to get behind efforts like this. Adults may be set in their eating habits and reject sound advice; school kids are a captive audience in a sense and their lifetime eating habits can be influenced for their good.

Leave a Reply