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Spotlight on Smart Snacks: Georgia Supporters and Leaders came together to show support for the federal “Smart Snacks” rule in 2012 and are still working to ensure strong and equitable implementation in schools across each state so that all kids will have access to healthy foods throughout the school day. Today we share insights on how advocates in Georgia voiced support for “Smart Snacks” and responded to a proposal around exemptions for fundraiser.

Following passage of the federal rule, Boards and Departments of Education in many states dug into the roll out of the “Smart Snacks” rule and determined how they would approach federal recommendations to limit fundraisers with unhealthy foods.

The great news is that Georgia invested in the needed staff support and training for “Smart Snacks” implementation. For example, Georgia has a recognition program for schools that go above and beyond the standards to ensure all students have access to healthy foods.

However, the Georgia Board of Education also proposed 30 fundraising exemptions with a time limit of three days each. This meant as many as 90 days, or about half the school year, junk food fundraisers would be allowed during the school day. Advocates across Georgia mobilized to oppose the proposal. Here are some tactics they deployed to make health the top priority in the school food environment:

  • The American Heart Association launched a campaign Raise Funds, Not Obesityto engage parents and advocates.
  • Grassroots experts paired a media campaign with a petition, collecting more than 1000 signatures that were subsequently submitted as part of the public comment period.
  • In August, a public hearing was held and advocates spoke out in favor of strong nutrition standards.
  • At local American Heart Association Heart Walks in September, two baskets of snacks were put on display– one containing junk food and another meeting the new “Smart Snack” guidelines – and people were asked to vote on the one they preferred more. More people voted for the healthier snacks, but more importantly, people were able to see the difference with the “Smart Snacks” rule and what it could mean for kids in their community.
  • Also in September, a poll of Georgia parents was ready for release from the Kids Safe and Healthful Foods Project at The Pew Charitable Trusts. The poll showed overwhelming support for healthy meals and snacks at school. Advocates leveraged the results from this poll for their campaign to tell the Georgia Board of Education that parents want healthy choices to be easier for Georgia’s 1.2 million school children. 

While many schools across Georgia will be making health a priority, not all schools will have the same healthy environment as others, which remains a concern for advocates.

Fortunately, according to the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, more than 1,000 schools serving over 770,000 students across Georgia have joined the Alliance’s Healthy Schools Program, creating healthier school environments for children to thrive. In the state, 102 schools have been recognized with National Healthy Schools Awards for their outstanding efforts. Take a look at their 2015 award winners and check out how Spout Springs Elementary made changes, replacing fundraisers that sold unhealthy treats with physical activity fundraisers.