- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 15, 2014

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) - Eating healthy is shrinking something besides waistlines in the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District.

School district officials report there’s been a 71 percent drop in revenues collected from vending machines at schools within the district, money that is mostly targeted to fund extracurricular activities, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported (https://is.gd/YsadN1).

Revenue has fallen 71 percent in the last decade, the district’s chief financial officer, Mike Fisher, told the school board last month.

Revenues from high schools in the district brought in nearly $225,000 in 2003, but that fell to $64,000 last year, he said.

“It’s really unfortunate because the revenue was so beneficial - when we talk about vending - was so beneficial to our extracurricular activities in our schools,” board President Heidi Haas said.

The drop became evident after the school district six years ago implemented stricter standards on what could be offered in the vending machines, including reductions in calorie counts and fat and sugar content.

At the beginning of this school year, the federal government instituted stricter guidelines through the Smart Snacks in Schools initiative.

It restricts every school district in the nation from selling snacks that fail to meet certain nutrition standards during the school day. The guidelines also define the school day as starting at midnight and extending until 30 minutes after the final school bell of the day.

Before these standards went into effect, districts could sell 12-ounce cans of soda with more than 100 calories, but now those products with empty calories - defined by the federal government as those coming from solid fats or added sugars - are no longer allowed to be sold.

The standards do not apply to food students bring from home or things like birthday cake served as classroom parties.

School board member Wendy Dominique has asked administrators about stemming the revenue losses by applying for an exemption from the initiative, which is part of the federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.

Districts can apply for exemptions for a certain number of days each year for schools to host things like bake sales and other food-related fundraisers.

However, the district’s nutrition services director, Amy Rouse, said she has been told the state doesn’t intend to seek waivers. The state education department didn’t have immediate comment Wednesday to The Associated Press.

“If there’s any change or action that can be taken at this time it needs to start from grass roots, and everybody needs to contact their representatives in Congress because the smart-snack regulation is the result of (Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act authorization),” Rouse said.


Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, https://www.newsminer.com

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