Virginia Tech study: Federal snack program does not impact kids

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BLACKSBURG, Va. – A new study from Virginia Tech says a federal government regulation has not had an effect on children and snack foods. 

The study used a sample of schools in the Appalachian region of Virginia. 

The research team examined the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Smart Snacks in School regulation. Introduced at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year, the federal mandate was intended to replace unhealthy school snacks and beverages with more wholesome options, including fruits, vegetables, and packaged treats low in fat, sugar, and sodium. More than 25 percent of children’s daily calories may come from snacks.

Smart Snacks complemented the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which overhauled the federal school breakfast and lunch programs with new standards to promote whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat milk products, and less sodium and fat in school meals. Since school meals formulate only part of a student's daily calorie intake, Smart Snacks was added to close the nutritional gap by providing healthy foods and beverages through school vending machines, stores, and à la carte services.

The study found improvements in the nutritional value of snacks available, but the middle school students surveyed never reported making healthier choices. 

According to researchers, there was little change in snack behavior before or after the legislation of Smart Snacks was implemented. 

Childhood obesity has tripled over the past three decades, according to the Centers for Disease Control.