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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently proposed updated nutrition standards for snacks and beverages sold in schools through vending machines, cafeteria à la carte lines, school stores and on-campus fundraisers. These proposed standards are now open to public comment until April 9 and your voice can help ensure they are as strong as possible.

These long-awaited standards, which are required by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, represent the first update in more than 30 years to these types of foods and beverages and complement efforts already underway to meet updated nutritional guidelines for the school lunch and breakfast programs. Likewise, they complement other healthy changes occurring in our homes and communities.

Although Colorado is lauded for being the “leanest” state in the nation for adults, our children are faring much worse. We rank 23rd in the nation for childhood obesity and have the second fastest rate of increase. With many of our kids consuming up to 50 percent of their daily calories at school, we must ensure that the healthy choice is the easy choice throughout their school day. While there has already been some progress in Colorado thanks to state and local policies and voluntary actions, nutritionally poor foods and beverages are still widely available in our schools.

Selling unhealthy food in schools undermines nutrition education as well as parents’ efforts to help their children eat healthfully. In a 2008 American Viewpoint poll of likely Colorado voters, 84 percent of respondents agreed that proper nutrition is important and our schools should provide only healthy beverages and snacks. Seventy-one percent agreed that to help fight the epidemic of childhood obesity, public schools in Colorado should ban sugary drinks and unhealthy snacks. Strong support for such policies was consistent across party lines, demographic categories, and urban, rural, and suburban regions of the state.

With this widespread recognition of the importance of providing only healthy foods and drinks in schools, LiveWell Colorado strongly supports the overall proposed rule, “Smart Snacks in School.” We encourage you to join us and many of our local and statewide partners in submitting comments to ask the USDA to move forward with strong final rules.

To submit a comment, simply use this link to the USDA website and consider adapting the attached model language.

Together we can ensure Colorado kids and kids throughout the country have access to the nutrition they need and deserve at school.