Local School Wellness Policies: Nutrition Standards for A La Carte and Vending
December 18, 2006 -- While greater numbers of children have begun to enjoy today’s healthier lunch options, there are still those who bypass the whole grain pizza with low-fat cheese, side of steamed broccoli, and a carton of skim milk to lunch on a chocolate chip cookie (or two), a side of potato chips, and a can of a favorite soft drink instead. How can this be, you ask? The absence of federal regulations pertaining specifically to food programs falling outside of the National School Lunch Program - such as a la carte and vending programs - created a loophole in the government’s ability to regulate the nutritional content of foods offered via these programs.
However, in recent years, vending and a la carte programs in schools across the nation have received much attention from media, parent, and advocacy groups, as well as policy-makers, and even schools themselves. This publicity, along with the implementation of the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act, has opened the doors for schools to take the regulation of these programs in their own hands.
This month’s wellness spotlight focuses on how several different school districts have incorporated nutrition standards for a la carte and vending programs into their local school wellness policies. And judging by the progress these schools have made, it seems as though the days of lunching on a la carte and a vended snacks and beverages of minimal nutritional value are soon to be numbered. Take a look:
Amphitheater (AZ) Unified School District
Policy Overview: Amphitheater’s policy covers such areas as: nutrition guidelines and education, physical activity, health services, parent, community, and staff involvement, and other school-based activities.
Nutrition Standards for A La Carte and Vending: Mandated/Proscriptive
Under Amphitheater’s policy, all foods available to students throughout the school day – including those available as part of competitive food sales, such as foods offered through vending and a la carte programs – must be consistent with Arizona Nutrition Standards.
Additionally, to ensure that the foods served meet the requirements of the District’s nutrition policy and regulation, Amphitheater’s policy requires that all foods offered throughout the school day be either prepared or obtained through the district’s food service program – including foods offered for classroom reward or incentive programs and foods and beverages offered or sold at school-sponsored events outside the school day – or, if these foods are not prepared through the district’s food service program, they are required to receive prior approval from school administrators.
Alexandria (VA) City School District
Policy Overview: Alexandria’s policy covers such areas as: nutrition education and guidelines, physical activity, and other school-based activities.
Nutrition Standards for A La Carte and Vending: Mandated/In Development
Because ACPS policy is still in development, the Board has not yet approved guidelines and standards for a la carte and vending programs. However, according to the policy, guidelines will be established for all foods available on every campus in the school district during the school day, including those foods and beverages available as part of a la carte offerings in the food service program and foods and beverages sold in vending machines as well.
Rochester (NY) City School District
Policy Overview: Rochester’s policy covers such areas as: the learning environment, health education, physical education and activity, nutrition services, health services, counseling, psychological, and social services, health promotion for staff, and family/community involvement.
Rochester’s policy is based upon research conducted on good nutrition and physical activity. The Local Wellness Policy was developed in alignment with the District’s mission and vision statements to support student success.
Nutrition Standards for A La Carte and Vending: Indirect
According to Rochester’s policy, foods and beverages sold or served at school must meet or exceed the nutrition recommendations featured in the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the State Competitive Foods Policies in New York Schools.
The policy states that these standards will apply to all foods on campus - even those “outside of the breakfast and lunch nutrition programs” - but does not, on the other hand, specifically identify the a la carte and vending programs. Instead, the policy indirectly refers to these programs by stating that “this includes all food available on campus, regardless of when or how it is distributed.”
Augusta (ME) School District
Policy Overview: Augusta’s policy covers areas such as: nutritional quality of foods and beverages on campus, foods and beverages outside of school meals, nutrition and physical activity promotion and food marketing, physical activity opportunities, and physical education.
In its Nutrition and Physical Activity Promotion and Food Marketing section, the policy states that the district aims to teach, encourage, and support healthy eating by students. It is suggested that schools promote fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain products, low fat and fat-free dairy products.
Nutrition Standards for A La Carte and Vending: No Guidelines
Under Augusta’s policy, “nutrition requirements established by local, state and federal statutes will be met and the department will strive to meet the recommendations from the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans.” However, the policy doesn’t proscribe or mandate that these requirements be extended to programs outside of the National School Lunch program, and instead states that these guidelines are to apply to “foods and beverages outside of school meals,” as well.