reimbursable school nutrition programs that include the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), the School Breakfast Program (SBP), and after-school snacks; (2) food and beverage sources that include items sold or offered through à la carte lines, snack bars, student stores, vending machines, or school activities such as special fundraisers, achievement rewards, classroom parties, school celebrations, classroom snacks, and school meetings; and (3) foods brought from home (“brown bag” lunches).
Foods and beverages sold at school outside of the NSLP or SBP are referred to as “competitive foods” because they compete with the traditional school meals as a nutrition source (see Chapter 3 for detailed discussion). Such foods and beverages may include carbonated sodas, fruit-flavored drinks of low fruit content, snack foods high in added sugar or salt, and baked goods high in fat as well as healthier options such as small whole-grain bagels and fruit. A number of factors influence the decision to allow competitive foods in the school environment, including state and local policies, student preferences, commercial marketing strategies in the school, administrative and parental opinions, financial concerns, and time and space constraints affecting meal service in the school. Lunches brought from home are not included as they fall outside the scope of the report.
There are important concerns about the contribution of nutrients and total calories from competitive foods to the daily diets of school-age children and adolescents. First, competitive foods tend to be calorie-dense rather than nutrient-dense and thus may contribute to the increasing problem of overweight and obesity among school-age children and adolescents (Kubik et al., 2003, 2005; Templeton et al., 2005). They may also contribute to other health conditions, including dental caries, poor bone health, and iron-deficiency anemia (Lytle and Kubik, 2003). Second, in contrast to meals served through the NSLP—which are generally consistent with national nutrition policy as delineated in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA)—competitive foods do not follow any federal nutrition guidelines and are not likely to conform to nutrient intake recommendations. Table 1-1 summarizes the recommendations from the DGA (DHHS/USDA, 2005). Third, these foods are increasingly available and consumed in a variety of venues across the school campus and throughout the school day. Given that children’s diets tend not to meet the DGA, and there is an abundance of often unhealthy food and beverage choices available at school, developing nutrient standards for individual products available outside the federally reimbursable school nutrition programs will make an important contribution toward improving the healthfulness of children’s diets.
The public recognition of and attention to these issues has resulted in a call for effective solutions. In June 2004, Congress passed Section 204 of Public Law 108–265 of the Child Nutrition and WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) Reauthorization Act that required local education agencies to