The Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a partnership between the William J Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association, has announced a breakthrough collaboration agreement between the pressure group and five leading food manufacturers to combat childhood obesity. Campbell Soup Company, Dannon, Kraft Foods, Mars and PepsiCo have joined to establish voluntary guidelines for snacks sold in schools.

The five food industry giants have committed to increasing investment in reformulating products and developing new products to make them healthier. The guidelines cover foods and snacks, desserts, side items and treats sold throughout schools, including school vending machines, ala carte lines, school stores, snack carts and fundraisers.

“Ensuring that children have healthier food choices at school is another critical step in the fight against childhood obesity,” said the former President Bill Clinton. “I’m proud of these five companies for making an important statement about this health challenge and an even more important commitment to doing something about it. What we are setting in motion with these guidelines will dramatically change the kind of food that children have access to at school. It will take time, but through coalitions like this of industry and the non-profit sector, we are going to make a real difference in the lives of millions of children by helping them eat healthier and live healthier.”

The new guidelines will provide children with food and snacks that are healthier – promoting  the consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nutrient-rich foods, fat-free and low fat dairy foods and place limits on calories, fat, saturated fat, trans fat, sugar and sodium.

“Kids across America will benefit from today’s agreement,” said Raymond Gibbons, American Heart Association president. “Our goal is to point kids to foods that are healthier and that will contribute to a healthier lifestyle overall. By working with schools and industry to implement these guidelines, we are helping to give parents peace of mind that their kids will be able to make healthier choices at school.”

The five participating companies have committed to various measures that demonstrate their commitment to the new guidelines, the alliance said.

Campbell will promote products that are lower in calories, fat and sodium while working to provide additional reduced sodium soup options in food service. Dannon will reduce the sugar content of its Danimals yogurt cups by 25% – even though the products already conform to the nutritional guidelines. Kraft has said it will add the alliance’s sodium and calorie caps to its current vending guidelines and extend them to include all of its foods sold in schools. Using the guidelines, Mars will create a new line of nutritious. Meanwhile, PepsiCo will reformulate several products and encourage schools, distributors and vending partners to offer products that meet the new alliance guidelines.

The five food companies have also agreed to encourage schools and food distributors to accept the voluntary guidelines while increasing the range of products offered that meet the alliance’s nutritional requirements.