Success Stories

Setting Smart Snack Standards in Mississippi’s Schools

Smart Snacks
Mississippi

 

Schools not only have the ability to provide students with the skills and insights to be active and productive members of society, but they are also capable of directly and positively impacting lifelong habits related to food choices and eating habits. After all, during the school year students spend as much as eight hours a day or more on school property — hours that can be dedicated to helping to create good eating habits.

The Mississippi Department of Education seized that opportunity in February of 2016 when it adopted Smart Snack standards for that state’s schools, ensuring that all public-school students have healthy options beyond what is provided in the School Meal Program. The standards are designed to make sure that schools in that state build on existing federal healthy eating guidelines.

The Mississippi Smart Snack standards require that grain-based products must be at least 50 percent whole-grain. Other products must have fruit, vegetable, dairy or protein as a first ingredient. Fewer than 35 percent of calories must be from fat, and the rules limit sodium, sugar, caffeine and total calories. Junk food in school fundraisers — like doughnuts, pizza and candy — are also prohibited and there is a zero exemption fundraising policy. An incentive program that uses grants has also been created to help schools develop healthier school environments.

“It’s well known that Mississippi is not the healthiest state in the nation,” says Katherine Bryant, the American Heart Association’s senior director of government relations and advocacy in Mississippi. “Anything the state can do to make this newest generation a healthier generation is important. In addition, it’s a well-known fact that when the school environment is healthier, academics improve.”

Mississippi voters are not only well aware of the problem, they support the state taking action. A survey found that 97% believe that serving nutritious foods in schools is important to ensure that children are prepared to learn and do their best scholastically. Of that survey total, 79% think it is very important to serve such foods.

Thus it was no surprise that Bryant and other advocates were able to recruit a large number of volunteers to advocate for the adoption of the policy A letter-writing campaign into the
state board of education was implemented, as was a highly effective social-media campaign.

“Creating healthy environments in the schools is a priority for Mississippi. We’ve seen some positive movement, and this policy adds another tool to the effort,” says Bryant.

 

Lean more about “Smart Snacks.”

 

October 2016