The USDA has proposed national standards to ensure that children have access to healthy food options during school. In a press statement last week, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said, “Parents and teachers work hard to instill healthy eating habits in our kids, and these efforts shouldn’t be undermined when kids walk through the schoolhouse door.”

Secretary Vilsack went on to tell reporters, "The beverage industry from our perspective has been very cooperative. They understand and appreciate there has to be a different approach in terms of what's available in vending machines."

Members of the American Beverage Association made a promise to parents that we would change the beverages offered in schools. And we delivered the National School Beverage Guidelines, which removed full-calorie sodas from schools and replaced them with a range of lower-calorie and smaller-portion choices. With help from schools across the country, implementation of these guidelines has led to significant results.

Research published last year in the American Journal of Public Health confirmed that full-calorie soft drinks have been removed from schools nationwide through this initiative and that beverage calories shipped to schools were reduced by 90 percent between 2004 and the end of the 2009-2010 school year. Practical approaches such as these will continue to have a meaningful and lasting impact for generations of schoolchildren to come.

We commend the USDA for its hard work in developing updated standards for school snacks and for taking the standards implemented voluntarily by our industry into consideration.

This is one more example of how successful partnerships can make a difference.