Kids Safe and Healthful Foods Project shows mixed results for Pennsylvania school snacking

This week, the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project, a joint initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, released a report looking at how states are doing selling healthy snacks in secondary schools.

Over the summer, York Suburban High School swapped out vending machines for new ones with healthier offerings. (File photo)

There’s good news and room for improvement in Pennsylvania, according to an email from the Pew Health Group.

Pennsylvania ranked fifth in the country for selling fruits in secondary schools and fourth in selling non-fried vegetables, according to the report.

But the state ranked lower when it came to selling the less-healthy snack foods.  It ranked 30th for selling cookies, cakes and other baked goods, and 31st for selling salty snacks.

The report also shows that some improvement has been made.

The percentage of secondary schools selling chocolate candy dropped from 50 percent in 2004 to about 29 percent in 2010, for example.

A news release cites the following as key findings in the report:

  • Many states reduced the availability of low-nutrient, high-calorie snacks such as chocolate, other candy, or full-fat salty chips in secondary schools between 2002 and 2008, but progress has since stalled.
  • Hundreds of secondary schools sell less-healthy snack foods or beverages. In 36 states, more than a quarter of schools sold them in 2010.
  • The availability of healthy snacks, such as fruits and vegetables, in secondary schools is limited. In 49 states, fewer than half of secondary schools sold fruits and vegetables in snack venues in 2010.

Find the whole report here. It includes recommendations for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to take steps toward improving the snacks sold outside the lunch program.

We’ve heard about some efforts schools have taken to improve the snacks available.

Before the school year started, York Suburban replaced its high school vending machines with a healthier variety. For example, potato chips were to be replaced by pita chips, and fruit smoothies were to take the place of soda products.

Spring Grove is in its second year with the same healthier vending machines. The district says it started with two machines at the high school and one at the middle school, but the company has since moved to have only one at the high school because of reduced sales.

Apparently they were popular at first, but the novelty seems to have worn off. District spokeswoman Lisa Smith pointed out that there are also rules about what schools can sell in vending machines.

Do you think there should be steps taken to sell more nutritious snacks in schools? What do your school vending machines stock?

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About Angie Mason

I'm the education reporter at the York Daily Record. Follow me on Twitter: @angiemason1
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