“Crunchy like Corn Nuts, but not so hard on the teeth,” is how Caleb Kriser, the company manager of Kracklin’ Kamut, describes the snack that is made in Big Sandy from Montana-grown Kamut. While Montana-grown foods from lentils to lettuce are making both their debuts and recurring appearances in school lunches, Kracklin’ Kamut snacks have the distinction of meeting the new federally mandated “Smart Snack” regulations. This means Kracklin’ Kamut is able to be sold in school stores, vending machines, and anywhere else snacks are sold during the school day.
The Kracklin’ Kamut snacks are made by roasting Kamut, an ancient grain that grows well in Montana and is rich in protein and the mineral selenium. Essentially a large wheat kernel that has been roasted, Kracklin’ Kamut snacks were thought up by Bob Quinn, the owner of the company. You can read the whole story of the discovery and development of Kamut here. While Kamut has been used to make pasta, milk, and other products, it was only in June 2015 that Quinn and Kriser finished developing Kracklin’ Kamut for retail and school markets.
Under the new Smart Snack regulations, in order for schools to sell Kracklin’ Kamut (or any processed product, local or otherwise) during the school day, the product must meet certain fat, calorie, sodium, and sugar requirements. When researching how to sell the snack to schools, Kriser had difficulty finding and understanding the guidelines, saying, “It was challenging at first to know if our product met some of the requirements.” In order to learn about just what counts as a “Smart Snack,” Kriser got some help from Montana Team Nutrition, which sent him a brochure found on the Office of Public Instruction’s website that breaks down and simplifies the nutritional requirements. (See that brochure here.)
Once he understood the nutritional parameters, Kriser asked himself whether their snack product was something that could still remain as originally intended for the retail market and also meet the school nutrition requirements. To find the answer, Kriser sent away a sample of the snack to California to undergo a nutritional analysis. Since the maximum calorie amount allowed for Smart Snacks is 200 calories, the analysis allowed Kriser to figure out how many ounces the package size would need to be in order for it to be sold in schools. The analysis also showed that the Kracklin’ Kamut snack met the sugar requirements. The only area that needed adjustment was fat. After experimenting with cooking the Kamut in a slightly different way and using a centrifuge to spin off extra fat, he was left with a product and package size that would meet Smart Snack requirements. Kriser says that after seeing the results of the nutritional analysis, he again asked himself whether the cooking process and package size required for schools would fit everywhere. It was decided to make all the retail packages the size the schools needed, which was a little smaller than what originally was intended.
Kracklin’ Kamut is now ready for the school market, and it has already been used in some FFA fundraisers in schools around the state from Malta to Laurel. It could potentially be sold in concession stands, vending machines, or even in small packaging for toppings on salad bars. As schools work towards Smart Snack compliance, these crunchy snack packs are a great way to feature Montana-grown Kamut.
Read on for more information on how you can make your local product ready for school markets!
Market Opportunity for Montana Producers: Schools Need More Smart Snack Compliant Food
Great news for Montana producers! There has never been a better time to get your locally produced product into schools. While farm to school has grown exponentially across the country and especially here in the Treasure State (Montana is ranked seventh in supporting local food), schools have struggled to find products that are Smart Snack compliant, a new school nutrition regulation to ensure that the healthy choice is the easy choice for growing students. This is a great opportunity for local producers to either consider reformulating their products or approach schools with local products that meet their needs.
This article will cover the nutrition requirements under the newly implemented USDA Smart Snacks rule, which includes foods and beverages sold during the school day. Local entrepreneurs can use this information to take advantage of this market opportunity while schools are actively seeking products that meet these guidelines. This article will not cover the relationship development process of working with a local school district. For more on that, please see the National Center for Appropriate Technology’s (NCAT) Farm to Cafeteria Manual. For more information on food safety protocols and distribution options, please contact your closest Food and Ag Center.
All Food Items
The new Smart Snack rules apply to all foods and beverages sold during the school day, which includes during meals, in vending machines, food fundraisers, and school stores, which offers a huge opportunity for Montana producers. Products must either be a whole grain rich product or have a vegetable, fruit, dairy product or protein item listed as the first ingredient. Another option is to offer a combination food that contains at least ¼ cup serving of a fruit or vegetable. (See graphic here.)
Snack items must be prepackaged items or whole and/or processed fresh fruit and vegetables. The snack must meet the following requirements:
- Be less than 200 calories
- Have less than 230mg of sodium
- Have fat content not greater than 35% of total calories (saturated less than 10%)
- Have sugar content not greater than 35% of total calories (For help with nutritional analysis, please call Mission Mountain Food Enterprise Center.)
Brain boosting beverages are encouraged through the nutrition standards. Nutrient rich and hydrating beverages like low-fat or fat free milk, 100% fruit juices, and water meet the standards. Serving sizes are limited to 8- to 12 ounces, ensuring that calories from the beverages are moderate. Zero to low calorie carbonated beverages (as well as caffeinated beverages) are allowable for high school students.
All prepared food must follow food safety guidelines established by the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services and local Department of Health requirements. For more information on this process, please consider reaching out to a Food and Ag Resource Center or Aubree Roth, the Farm to School Coordinator for Montana Team Nutrition. The staff at Montana Team Nutrition can provide technical assistance to vendors. The school market is a great way for Montana producers to diversify their market presence and reach a new audience.
Contributors to this article: Shay Farmer, Farm to Institution Program Manager at Lake County Community Development Corporation; Katie Halloran, Local Food Specialist at the National Center for Appropriate Technology, and Aubree Roth of Montana Team Nutrition