What’s so smart about those USDA-regulated “Smart Snacks” sold in school vending machines? More whole grain, and lowered sugar, fat, and calories—even if they’re Cheetos, Doritos, or Pop Tarts. These reformulated items are less unhealthy, sure, but new research from the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity proposes that their “copycat” look and packaging is designed to maintain brand loyalty outside of school, where the original versions are heavily marketed to teens. The strategy may be working—and backfiring on school food service when the presence of perceived junk food undermines parent trust.

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