Columbia, SC (WLTX) When South Carolina students go back to school this month, they won't be able to buy chicken biscuits in the car drop-off line, pizza slices during lunch or candy bars between classes.
New federal nutrition guidelines that changed school lunches two years ago now apply to school vending machines, canteens, and fundraisers.
The guidelines limit calories and the amount of sugar, salt, and fat in the foods sold in schools. Snacks have to be whole grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, or protein foods.
The guidelines are an effort to get students in the habit of eating healthful foods, as well as an attempt to lessen childhood obesity. The guidelines have been phased in, with the restrictions on school lunches starting during the 2012-2013 school year.
"The effect has been not what was intended," says Jack Carter, executive director of operations for Richland District 2 outside Columbia. "The effect has been kids don't eat in the cafeteria anymore, and that's nationwide."
He says a lot more students just bring their lunches from home. "What's going to happen now is it's going to be back to the way it was, say, 7 or 8 years ago; the only kids eating in the cafeteria are going to be the free and reduced-(price lunch) kids, because they just don't have options."
The new guidelines for snacks and fundraisers are going to hurt a lot of schools, he says, which rely on the money from vending machines and fundraisers. "It probably depends on the size of the school and the affluence of the school. I've heard $30-40,000 in a year of profit, probably more in high schools," he says.
Greenville County School District spokesman Oby Lyles says, "Schools are moving to healthier fundraisers such as walking laps for donations. I do not have fundraising amounts, but I know from talking with principals that those events have been more successful."
In Pickens County schools, spokesman John Eby says schools' fundraising will take a hit because of the new regulations, but it's hard to say how much yet because there may be some exemptions. The U.S. Department of Agriculture will allow exemptions so schools can hold "infrequent fundraisers", and the SC Department of Education says it will request "a limited number" of exemptions.
"Secondly, each school is handling it differently, and some rely more heavily on snack sales than others for fundraising. At our larger high schools (1,400-1,700 students) the canteen selling snacks may pull in around $25,000 per year. We don't know how much that will decline until we know how kids take to the new, healthier snacks," Eby says.
Carter says taking sodas out of vending machines and replacing them with water and flavored waters hasn't been difficult, but sales are down, eliminating what was a revenue stream for the schools. "We are really struggling right now to find through our vendors snacks that can go in the vending machines that are available to students that will meet the requirement," he says.
The new guidelines do not apply to after-school activities like sporting events, so you'll still be able to buy a hot dog or hamburger at a high school football or basketball game.