Randy Weiner, school board chairman, said he is wary of the new regulation because it will make it more difficult to put on fundraising events at schools.
“Students need to have choices of food, and the White House, in my opinion, has no business regulating the food that the school district sells in the vending machines,” Weiner said.
Weiner said he thinks the way the White White House plans on implementing the regulations is overbearing. This legislation comes alongside the White House sponsoring exercise with Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Initiative, which encourages children to be active.
The board’s decision to make a public statement about its disdain for the new law mimics the resolution the Cobb Board of Education drafted in late June.
“We did this in general because of the heavy-handed way the government is trying to implement this law,” said Randy Scamihorn, the vice chairman of Cobb’s school board.
Scamihorn said his board hopes other school districts would send similar letters to the state.
“Marietta is proving what we’d hoped would happen,” Scamihorn said.
The federal law, which went into effect July 1, bans selling or giving children snacks and drinks considered unhealthy by the federal government during school hours.
Under the new rules, foods must be “whole grain rich,” meaning they contain 50 percent whole grains or have whole grains as the first ingredient, or have as the first ingredient a fruit, vegetable, dairy product or protein-rich food. Snacks must be 200 calories or less, and entrees must be 350 calories or less. Snacks must have less than 230 milligrams of sodium, and the fat content in any food must be no more than 35 percent of its total calories, according to SmartSnacksinSchool.com.
Diet soft drinks and low-fat milk will still be allowed in limited quantities. Water can be served in unlimited amounts and children can still bring snacks to school from home if they choose.
Marietta school board’s complaints
The resolution will be drafted in time for the board’s next meeting in August, Weiner said. The resolution will list why the school system is against the new regulation, and it will formally denounce the Smart Snack Law.
Weiner said the resolution will be sent to the Georgia Department of Education, which has the power to grant partial exemptions from the law for schools.
“I’m hoping for (the state department) to give us the flexibility to decide what we sell in our vending machines,” Weiner said.
At its monthly meeting Tuesday, members of the board expressed concern about the government increasing its presence in local schools.
“Obviously, this is very concerning to have additional government oversight into what we’re try to do — trying to give the best education for our kids,” said Jason Waters, a school board member.
Board members repeatedly asked Cindy Culver, the nutritionist for Marietta City Schools, what they could do to get around the mandates for healthy snacks from the federal government.
Waters asked Culver if the schools could get away with ignoring the new laws because the federal government has not set any penalties in place for violators.
“What can we do and not do?” Waters asked. “If we say, ‘Thanks for that advice, but we don’t have any penalties,’ so we’re not going to follow it. What does that look like?”
Culver said there was no way out of implementing the Smart Snack Law.
“Just to be clear, it’s not advice — it’s a regulation,” Culver said.
Culver said she expects the Marietta School System to be audited by the state Department of Education in the next school year, so everyone has to follow the rules.
“If (the state) were to come, and if they were to see that we’re not compliant, we would receive a request for corrective action,” Culver said.
Regulations on bake sales
Weiner said the Smart Snack Law could negatively affect fundraising for school teams and clubs, as well as Marietta High School’s culinary arts program.
Tom Cheater, a board member, said the new regulations would force the schools to regulate the times a fundraiser could be held because the Smart Snack Law regulates food sold at schools from midnight the morning of the school day until 30 minutes after school lets out.
Culver said a fundraiser held any time between 30 minutes after school lets out to midnight can sell any food. But, any fundraiser during the school hours set by the new law must follow the smart snack guidelines.
Cheater said fundraisers won’t be able to survive if they are only allowed to sell food within the regulations, and it’s hard to hold fundraisers at any other time than during school hours. Although no one board members could estimate exactly how much funding could be lost, Scamihorn said the loss would be “devastating” for local districts.
“I mean, let’s face it: at these fundraisers people aren’t going to be selling broccoli bars, these people aren’t going to want to buy something else,” Cheater said.
The culinary arts program at Marietta High School also raises money for its cooking supplies by selling the food it bakes in class, Weiner said. Culver said the culinary arts program won’t have to change the menus it cooks during class to stay within the new rules, but it may have to stop selling its food.
“It doesn’t look like they’ll have to change any of their curriculum, but then when they go to sell it to a student during the school day, it has to meet the standards,” Culver said.
Weiner said he hopes the complaints that reach the state’s education department are enough to make a big change in the law.
“The more school districts that speak out against it, the more chance we have,” Weiner said.
The measures are meant to curb childhood obesity, which has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The rules stem from the Healthy and Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which calls on the USDA to serve healthier food in schools. The first part of the act went into effect in 2012, requiring healthier school lunches. The changes to the school lunches are similar to those being enforced now for snack foods.