Addressing the need for healthier standards for all foods sold in schools, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has set healthier requirements for foods sold a la carte in school stores, snack bars and vending machines, beginning in the fall 2014.

Under the USDA’s “Smart Snacks in Schools” nutrition standards interim final rule, foods must be low in fat, sugar and sodium and provide kids more of the nutrients they need. Schools will also be required to serve more whole grains, low-fat dairy, fruits, vegetables and lean protein.

“The academy applauds the USDA for bagging junk food in schools,” says registered dietitian nutritionist and academy spokesperson Debbi Beauvais. “The USDA is to be commended for putting forth these nutrition standards.”

Recently, the academy worked with its member experts to comment on USDA’s proposed nutrition standards for school snacks, encouraging a school environment that provides access to healthy foods. The USDA’s “Smart Snack in Schools” rule implements strong, scientifically sound, nutritional standards and reflects recommendations from the academy’s nutrition experts.

“Research shows unhealthy food and beverages sold in schools other than at meals negatively affect students’ diet and weight,” says Beauvais. “The academy is in favor of all foods sold in schools having a positive nutritional benefit and modeling food choices children should make outside of the school setting. These USDA standards allow school children to meet their nutrition needs by consuming nutrient-dense foods.”

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack has called the new standards a “game changer for our youngsters.”