THORNTON, Colo. -- A school food crackdown looming in Congress that aims to reduce childhood obesity went over like a wet potato chip at a suburban Denver elementary school where federal agriculture officials pitched the plan Tuesday.
"I like healthy food. But I also like snacks," said Dominic Sotheo, 7, who picked at a bean-and-cheese burrito with corn and low-fat milk served for the visit. He favors PayDay candy bars and chocolate chip cookies -- treats his school doesn't sell.
Under a bill pending in the Senate, more schools could be taking treats away from pupils, or at least making them healthier under tighter national nutrition standards.
The bill would add $4.5 billion over the next decade for school meals for poor students. The measure also gives schools grants to help them buy local produce.
However, it is the bill's nutritional guidelines that most concern the diners at Coronado Hills Elementary School in Thornton.
Under the change, the Department of Agriculture could create new standards for all foods in schools, including vending machine items.
Federal officials who oversee school nutrition are taking their healthy-lunch pitch straight to their toughest critics -- diners.
Kevin Concannon, the USDA's undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services, has had lunch at about a half-dozen school cafeterias this spring and plans to visit more before the school year ends.
"Getting kids started eating healthier is one of the most important long-term goals we have as a country," he told reporters after lunch. Asked about the snacks and ice creams sold alongside the fruits and veggies, Concannon said snacks wouldn't immediately be banned, but schools could be required to offer healthier things.