Current Standards on Snacks in Schools

Current Standards On Snacks In Schools

Mon 11 Mar 2013

Story by The Food Revolution Team

The federal standards that currently apply to competitive foods are over 30 years old and no longer reflect current nutritional science. These current regulations prohibit the sale of Foods of Minimal Nutritional Value (FMNV) such as chewing gum, carbonated soft drinks and certain candies, during meal periods in the food service area where reimbursable school meals are sold or eaten.

No federal regulations exist for other competitive foods that are also high in calories, fat, sodium, and sugar but which are not specifically identified as FMNV (CDC).

State and local education agencies do have, however, the ability to set rules for competitive foods (including FMNV) that are stricter than federal regulations. As of 2010, 39 states had enacted state policies for competitive foods in schools (CDC).

California, Florida, Illinois and New York are among the states with the most numbers of students enrolled in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). Participating schools have all had school competitive food policies since 2004 or earlier. School districts in these states have already moved students towards improved competitive foods and have dealt with the challenges and consequences of any changes in overall revenues. With the comment period still open on the newly proposed competitive food rule here are some of the policies these states currently have in place:


Elementary children may purchase only milk (2% or less), fruit or vegetable juices that are at least 50% juice with no added sweeteners, and water with no added sweeteners.
Middle and high school children may purchase water, milk (2% or less), fruit and vegetable drinks that are at least 50% juice, and electrolyte replacement beverages with no more than 2.1g of added sweetener per 1 fl oz. They may also purchase food items in à la carte lines as long as the foods have no more than 400 calories per entrée and no more than 4g of fat per 100 calories. Entrées from NSLP meals are also allowed. These standards are in place from 30 minutes before the school day begins through 30 minutes after the school day ends (CSPI, 2007).


• No competitive food sales are allowed on elementary school campuses during the day and no competitive foods from vending, school stores, and other food sales allowed in secondary schools until an hour after the last lunch period. Carbonated beverages are allowed if 100% fruit juices are also available where those beverages are sold (CSPI, 2007).


• Policies on competitive foods apply only to grades eight and below for foods sold during the school day, with the exception of foods that are sold as part of a reimbursable meal or sold within the food service area.
• Foods that are allowed to be sold outside food service areas or within food service areas other than during meal service must have no more than 35% of calories from fat and 10% of calories from saturated fat, no more than 35% sugar by weight, and may not contain more than 200 calories per serving (CSPI, 2007).

New York

New York’s State Education Department allows competitive food standards to be set at the district level (DiNapoli, 2009). New York City, for example, has adopted standards that are much more rigorous than the state-level standards.

• Competitive food sales standards within New York City schools apply to food sales from the beginning of the school day through 6:00 p.m. weekdays. Students can sell New York State Department of Education approved foods in schools any time during the day, as long as the sale occurs outside of the school cafeteria. PTAs can hold a monthly fundraiser during the day with non-approved food items as long as the sale occurs outside the cafeteria and complies with standards set in the Chancellor’s Regulations.
• Allowed beverages include water or low-calorie drinks without artificial flavors or colors, at 10 calories per 8oz for elementary and middle schools and 25 calories per 8oz in high schools. Low-fat (1%) and fat-free milk are also allowed.
• Snack vending machines are not permitted in schools where students range from pre-kindergarten to fifth grade. (New York City, 2010).

Find out more about what policies these states have implemented here.

While none of these state policies exactly meet those proposed by the USDA, California, Illinois and New York City all meet or exceed proposed standards. These states show that all states can play a leadership role in developing state policies for foods and beverages sold outside the school meals program that go above and beyond national standards.

The Food Revolution Team


More News