Newswise — The Mississippi Department of Education voted on Thursday, February 18, 2016 to adopt Smart Snack standards, ensuring all public school students have healthy options beyond what is provided in the School Meal Program.

This vote by the Board of Education is a critical step each state is taking to emphasize what is most important for their students to get the best from their school nutrition services. If you think of it as a salad bar, there’s a dozen super nutritious foods available and maybe a half dozen toppings that make your salad less healthy. The feds gave states set a baseline of a healthy salad bar, but states can add to it, making it healthier or less healthy. Mississippi is doing the right thing and keeping junk food “toppings” out of the salad bar.

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 fundraisers — like doughnuts, pizza and candy — are also out the door in Mississippi. Almost all Mississippi voters, 97%, say that serving nutritious foods in schools is important to ensure that children are prepared to learn and do their best, while 79% think it is very important. With this support, Mississippi leaders reaffirmed nation leading standards to prohibit fundraisers selling unhealthy foods – such as doughnuts, pizzas, and candy bars.

Scott Clements, director of the Office of Healthy Schools, shared that “In 2007, leadership in both the Legislature and the State Board of Education, took steps to address childhood obesity and student health in a comprehensive manner. As such, we established regulations that were nearly identical to what USDA implemented seven years later. Today’s vote confirms our commitment to the health of Mississippi’s students.”

In 2004-2005, Mississippi conducted an impact study in preparation for the new policies and found little or no decrease in sales when moving to healthier options. Schools in other states have also demonstrated alternatives to junk food fundraisers are prosperous. A fruit sale in one Colorado high school sold 960 boxes of fruit raising nearly $8,000 and an elementary school in Georgia held a fun run that raised $37,000.

In addition, Mississippi is upping their game to help schools through small training grants – a much needed investment to boost school wellness councils that support healthy school changes. They will be rolling out $3,000 in grant funding to 100 schools in need of additional support to develop healthy habits across their school.

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