Although many schools and districts are improving competitive food and beverage offerings, they have a long way to go in promoting healthful choices. The SHPPS found that the most commonly consumed competitive foods and beverages were high in sugar, fat, and salt (Wechsler et al., 2001). Other studies also have found that à la carte offerings are of lesser nutritional quality (French et al., 2003; Harnack et al., 2000; Probart et al., 2005).
4. Foods and beverages have health effects beyond those related to vitamins, minerals, and other known individual components.
The 2005 DGA (DHHS/USDA, 2005) and MyPyramid (USDA, 2005) provide advice to help Americans choose a healthful diet. As stated, “The intent of the Dietary Guidelines is to summarize and synthesize knowledge regarding individual nutrients and food components into recommendations for a pattern of eating that can be adopted by the public” (DHHS/USDA, 2005). The DGA further states, “A basic premise of the Dietary Guidelines is that nutrient needs should be met primarily through consuming foods. Foods provide an array of nutrients and other compounds that may have beneficial effects on health” (DHHS/USDA, 2005). This is especially important to consider in the school setting where lifelong habits will be encouraged and developed.
A growing body of evidence suggests the important role that fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nonfat and low-fat dairy play in our diet. The recommended standards comprise both nutrient- and food-based standards to remain consistent with the DGA and to recognize the importance of consuming nutrients through foods and beverages.
5. Implementation of nutrition standards for foods and beverages offered in schools will likely require clear policies; technical and financial support; a monitoring, enforcement, and evaluation program; and new food and beverage products.
Currently, there are many school, school district, and state policies on foods and beverages available outside the federally reimbursable school nutrition programs. Some standards are detailed and others are more general. Moreover, in some settings where competitive foods and beverages are offered, and at some grade levels, there are no policies at all. Thus, for nutrition standards to be implemented in schools that choose to allow these foods and beverages, policy changes at the school and school district level, and sometimes at the state and federal level, may be necessary.
In addition, school and school district staffs have varying levels of experience putting nutrition standards into practice. Some may require technical assistance and additional funding to implement these changes. They will also need the assistance of food and beverage suppliers to provide products that comply with the standards. Furthermore, to ensure that the standards are more than mere words on paper, responsibility must be assigned to personnel in the school or school district for monitoring the implementa-