National School Nutrition Standards


June 2, 2008 -- Since the 2005-2006 school year, the School Nutrition Association (SNA) has engaged in a dialogue with school nutrition directors, state agency personnel, school food industry members, USDA officials and allied organizations on the need for uniform national school nutrition standards that would address school meals and foods and beverages sold outside of school meals. A series of open town hall discussions, mega issue discussions and an open comment period on proposed standards culminating in an SNA National Nutrition Standards Summit held in January 2008 provided key input from all sections of SNA membership as well as other interested individuals. The feedback process directed the Association toward seeking a set of science-based, practical school food and beverage standards.

Throughout this process SNA's goals have remained the same:

  1. National school nutrition standards. USDA should set and enforce one set of uniform national nutrition standards for reimbursable school meals that are consistent with the goals of the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
  2. Expansion of the time and place rule. Congress should give USDA the authority to set national nutrition standards for foods and beverages available outside of the school meal programs anywhere on school campus during the school day including those items sold through vending machines, a la carte lines, fundraisers and other school venues.

To further these goals, in spring 2007, SNA's Board of Directors established the SNA National School Food and Beverage Standards Task Force to develop a set of nutrition standard recommendations for both reimbursable meals and food and beverages sold or served outside of reimbursable meals. The Task Force of 10 included SNA members that are school nutrition directors and state agency directors, as well as SNA industry members and non-members who are academic experts in the nutrition field. The Task Force met on several occasions over 12 months under the leadership of SNA President-Elect Katie Wilson, PhD, SNS.

School Nutrition Association National Standards General Guiding Principles

  1. National nutrient standards will reflect what is best for children's present and future health.
  2. Schools will offer and promote foods and beverages consistent with Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 (DGAs) and Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs).
  3. Foods and beverages available at school will contribute to teaching children lifelong healthy eating habits.  This principle will be accomplished in partnership with school foodservice professionals, teachers, parents, and the broader community.
  4. Federally reimbursable meals and snacks will be the primary source of foods and beverages offered at school.
  5. Current and future implementation of these standards will require a collaborative effort with all stakeholders.
  6. Federal standards will pre-empt state and local standards for all foods and beverages sold/served during the school day throughout the campus.
  7. Compliance with Federal pre-emptive standards will require clear policies including enforcement, technical and financial support, and increased meal reimbursements.

Specific SNA guiding principles for both federal school nutrition programs and items sold or served on the school campus outside of reimbursable meals can be accessed through Related Links along with the specific standards as approved by the SNA Board of Directors.

Next Steps and Suggested Uses for SNA National Nutrition Standards

The SNA recommended national nutrition standards can be utilized in several ways:

  • Federal Policy: SNA supports the Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act (S. 771/HR 1363), federal legislation that would give USDA the authority to set and enforce national nutrition standards for foods and beverages offered outside of school meals. SNA's recommended nutrition standards are consistent with this legislation. SNA will also formally submit the SNA National Nutrition Standards for reimbursable meals to the Institute on Medicine panel considering new meal pattern requirements.
  • State Policy: SNA's National Nutrition Standards can be used by state school nutrition leadership, state agency personnel and other advocates for child nutrition at the state level as a model for legislated or regulated, science-based state school nutrition standards.
  • Local Policy: School nutrition directors and other leaders in the school environment can use SNA's National Nutrition Standards as a component of local school wellness policies to address the requirement for nutrition standards for all foods and beverages offered in schools.
  • Industry Guidelines. Companies that provide food and beverage items to the school foodservice market can use SNA's National Nutrition Standards as a guideline when developing or modifying products.

Additional Background on the Need for National Nutrition Standards

For more than ten years, SNA has held the position that nutrition standards should be applied to foods and beverages available outside of the reimbursable school meal programs (National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the School Breakfast Program (SBP.)) While nutritious meals are sold within the cafeteria as part of these programs, too often they compete with unregulated foods and beverages outside of the cafeteria. Local wellness policies and the efforts of school nutrition professionals, parents and others have made substantial progress in promoting healthful options throughout the school environment;  however, the need for consistent, uniform, science-based, enforceable nutrition standards for food and beverages sold/served outside of reimbursable meals remains.

With regard to reimbursable meals, the USDA, as required by federal law, sets nutrition standards in the form of meal pattern requirements consistent with the goals of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. State and local regulations in recent years have veered from this goal by setting additional, sometimes more stringent requirements that may not be science-based, therefore creating the need for uniform national nutrition standards for reimbursable meals. The USDA Food and Nutrition Service is currently working with the Institute on Medicine on a process to update the meal pattern requirements for the NSLP and SBP to reflect the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.


National School Nutrition Standards Resources

State School Nutrition Standards Information

Local School Nutrition Standards Information

Other Related Government Affairs Resources

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