Adapting to Smart Snacks, One Fruit at a Time

IMAG3375Did you know that March is National Nutrition Month? I’d like to spotlight a story from a local PTSA in celebration of nutrition education and  healthy lifestyles.

This school year, J.L. Mann High School’s PTSA in Greenville, South Carolina adapted items sold in their school store to ensure compliance with the new federally mandated Smart Snacks guidelines. The guidelines which set standards for calories, fat, sodium and sugar went into effect on July 1, 2014.

Many of the foods and beverages sold in the school store in previous years—candy bars, cinnamon rolls, gummy worms, chocolate candies, hot chocolate—would not meet the new guidelines. Parents worked diligently to make the necessary changes and purchase foods and beverages that would meet the guidelines beginning this school year.

After spending hours in Walmart and Sam’s Club with the Smart Snacks product calculator, a parent spearheading the efforts was at a loss. There were very few foods that met the guidelines and the ones that did would not be affordable to the students or the students wouldn’t like them. After contacting manufacturers directly with no success, the parent decided to reach out to a vendor to purchase directly from them.

With some hesitation due to weekly order quotas, one vendor decided to allow the PTSA to have an account, which was finalized in February (four months after this process began). J.L. Mann High School’s PTSA works closely with their vendor representative who seeks out Smart Snacks compliant items just for them!

IMAG3393Although the initial process of transitioning the school store was difficult, the parents were determined to meet the guidelines and have a successful school store. The store purchases whole wheat bagels from a local bakery and sell nearly nine dozen a day. It also sells items including whole wheat muffins, dried fruit and flavored waters, however, fresh fruit cups and Mannchables name after the school mascot seem to be the best-sellers.

The fruit cups are composed of apples, oranges, grapes, watermelon, and pineapple while the Mannchables contain celery, carrots, ranch dressing, cheese stick, nutrition bar and fruit. In three days the school store sold 120 fruit cups and they sell 30-50 Mannchables per week!

With a lot of determination, hard work and dedication, J.L. Mann High School is ensuring that their school store complies with the new guidelines and provides healthy foods and beverages for the students! Check out their local news feature on Greenville Online.

Want to learn more about Smart Snacks? Visit or email for more info.

Stephanie Simms is the school nutrition policy fellow for the National PTA.

Increased Access to Healthy Foods for SNAP Participants Through New USDA Funding

shutterstock_220126873On Sept. 29 in Richmond, Va., the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that $31.5 million will be available to assist those who participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to easily access and afford fruits and vegetables. The funding will come from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture through the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program, which was established in the 2014 Farm Bill. SNAP recipients encounter many barriers when accessing healthy foods, such as finding fresh fruits and vegetables. However, this program will involve stakeholders to work together to improve healthy eating among SNAP participants and remove the barriers that they face.

Grant recipients will work closely with others at the community level to initiate pilot projects as well as large-scale and multi-year projects. These pilot projects will work closely with the SNAP agency within the specific state and may include incentives for SNAP participants by working with SNAP retailers, improving marketing for healthier food options and supporting for local and regional agricultural producers. In addition, these incentives will make their products more accessible to SNAP participants, which specifically targets underserved communities.

A goal of SNAP is to replicate the successful initiatives that this funding supports. This may be technological advances of the benefit system or the increase in purchases of local and regional agricultural products by SNAP participants. Ultimately, the outcome for the projects that receive the funding will be an increase in fruit and vegetable consumption among SNAP participants that is sustained well beyond after the project has ended.

Learn more about the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program and read the press release announcing the funding.

Stephanie Simms is the School Nutrition Policy Fellow for the National PTA.