A comparison of K-12 snack food guidelines developed by government and non-government organizations in the United States

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The Ohio State University

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A standard definition of what constitutes a ‘snack’ as well as a universally accepted guidance program for snacking in K-12 schools are lacking. This makes it difficult for nutrition professionals to evaluate food consumption patterns and develop guidance on what, when, and how many snacks are ideal for consumption by children in the United States. The objectives of this study were to: 1) Analyze and compare snacking definitions and recommendations (frequency, foods suggested, nutrient composition) for children K – 12, developed by government and non-government organizations; 2) Evaluate the nutrient composition of snack items recommended and reimbursed by U.S. Federal government Child and Adult Food Care Program to children ages 6-12 in at-risk populations. Methods: 1) Snack definitions and recommendations, and their concordance with 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans for children K – 12, developed by a government (Child and Adult Food Care Program-CACFP) and non-government (The Alliance for a Healthier Generation) organization, were compared. 2) Qualitative methods were used to evaluate differences in snack definitions and recommendations. 3) Quantitative methods were used to evaluate differences in nutrient composition between the six groups of snack items suggested by the Child and Adult Food Care Program based on nutrients provided per kilocalorie, and nutrients provided over the course of one week. Results: Processed and pre-packaged foods were promoted by the non-government organization; whole food and combined food groups were emphasized by the government organization. Significant differences were found between the nutrient composition of the six snack groups for the following nutrients: carbohydrates, protein, total fat, saturated fat, potassium, calcium, and vitamin D. These results demonstrate a need for variability in snack foods provided to the populations utilizing the government-subsidized snack food regulations in order to meet total nutrient requirements in concordance with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The results of this preliminary study will be used as a platform for further research in the area of K-12 snack food guidelines in the United States.



Nutrition, Snacking, Guidelines, Competitive Foods, School nutrition