Seattle, WA School Board Policy on “Competitive Foods” (Junk Food)

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Seattle, WA, US

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Type: Policy

Status: Adopted in September 2004

Source File:


Poor nutrition affects children’s health and their ability to learn. Schools are uniquely positioned to model and reinforce healthy eating behaviors by limiting access to high calorie, high fat and high sugar food and beverages. This includes providing healthy choices that are consistent with nutrition education messages and maximizing participation in the school meal program.

The U.S.D.A. was granted authority (PL95-166) to prescribe regulations relating to food services, which compete with nonprofit programs authorized under the Child Nutrition Act and National School Lunch Act. In April 1978, the U.S.D.A. proposed an amendment to the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Program (7CFR Parts 210 and 220), which identifies foods of minimal nutritional value and prohibits their sale in the food service areas during school meal periods. Foods of minimal nutritional value include any food that fails to supply at least 5% of the United States Recommended Dietary Allowance (USRDA) for specified nutrients per 100 calories. The eight nutrients are protein, Vitamin A, ascorbic acid, niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, calcium, and iron. The USDA further defines all foods other than meals served as part of the school meal program as Competitive Foods. Local school districts have the authority to further regulate competitive foods.

The availability of unhealthful food and beverages sold in competition with the federal school meal programs also undermines the financial viability, effectiveness and quality of the school meal programs. Research shows that students who participate in school meal programs have higher intakes of key essential nutrients at lunch and over a 24-hour period.

The availability of non-nutritious foods undermines nutrition education efforts, encourages over consumption of foods high in fat and added sugar, teaches children to associate food with praise and teaches children to eat when they are not hungry. It also increases the potential for development of eating disorders, food-borne illnesses and food-based allergic reactions.

The requirements of this Procedure apply to all competitive foods, which are defined as any foods and beverages offered or sold to students other than what is served as part of the school meal programs. This Procedure applies to any school on District property and applies only during school hours or during times when regularly scheduled after school programs are held. The procedures apply whether the food or beverage is served from vending machines, student stores or offered or sold by parent groups, booster clubs, associated student body groups, al a carte sales in lunchrooms, by teachers in class or by others. (The procedures do not apply to meals and snacks brought by students for their individual consumption).

The Federal Register, Volume 45, No. 20, dated January 29, 1980, identifies the federal regulations, which became effective July 1, 1980.


1. Content

a. All competitive foods must meet the following nutrition standards. Entree items commonly served as part of the school meal program may be served in the a la carte or snack line even if the individual item exceeds these standards.

i. Total fat content must be less than or equal to 30% of total calories (3 grams per 100 calories) per serving (not including seeds and nuts);
ii. Saturated fat content must be less than or equal to 10% of total calories per serving; iii. Sugar content must be less than or equal to 15 grams per serving (not including fresh, dried or frozen fruits and vegetables).
In addition, any competitive foods and beverages should, as much as possible, be fresh, locally grown or produced, certified organic, unprocessed, non-GMO (do not contain Genetically Modified Organisms) and non-irradiated, and should not contain additives or preservatives.

b. All Competitive Foods must meet the following portion size guidelines:

i. Beverages (except water and milk): 12 oz. or less
ii. Snacks: 1.25 oz. or less
iii. Cookies/cereal bars: 2 oz. or less
iv. Bakery items: 3 oz. or less
v. Frozen desserts: 3 oz. or less
vi. Yogurts: 8 oz. or less
vii. Other items shall be no larger than the portions of those foods served as part of the school meal programs;

c. Beverage sales are limited to beverages containing less than or equal to 15 grams of added sugar (e.g., corn syrup, honey, sucrose, etc.) per serving and no caffeine. Beverages must also meet the nutrition guidelines for fat and saturated fat. 100% fruit juice OR beverages sweetened with 100% fruit juice are allowed as long as the portion size does not exceed 12oz. Non-fat and 1% chocolate milk with greater than 15g of added sugar per serving is allowed with a portion size limit of 16oz. There is no serving size limit on bottled water.

2. Operation of Vending Machines, Student Stores, and Fundraisers

a. Sales of competitive foods and beverages (with the exclusion of a la carte items sold by Child Nutrition Services) are permitted during the time when the school breakfast and lunch programs are serving food, except in middle and elementary schools.

b. Except as provided in this subparagraph all such sales must meet the nutritional guidelines of paragraph 1.c above. For the 2004-2005 school year only, sales of soft drinks under a beverage vending contract or through student stores do not have to meet the requirements of paragraph 1.c above

c. All beverages, except milk, shall be priced higher than the price for bottled water for the same size serving.

d. Vendor contracts for sales of competitive foods shall not include incentives for increasing students’ consumption of foods or drinks

e. Vendor contracts for sales of competitive foods shall not include distribution of free products.

[f. Notwithstanding the provisions of the procedure, DECA and ASB clubs shall be allowed to continue their present practices for hours of operation and products sold until the beginning of the second semester of the 2004-2005 school year.]

3. Distribution of competitive foods as part of class parties and celebrations:
Occasional class parties and celebrations (e.g., Valentines Day, Halloween, Cinco de Mayo, monthly birthday parties, etc.) are exempt from the above guidelines; however, providing healthful options is strongly encouraged.

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