The food and beverages served in elementary school meal programs through the United States Department of Agriculture school meal program must meet certain federal nutrition standards. However, many schools also sell food through à la carte lines and in snack bars and vending machines. Those “competitive foods” do not have to meet guidelines.
Beginning in 2006, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation launched the Healthy Schools Program to promote healthy food and physical activity in schools. It created guidelines to address drinks and foods sold in competitive venues. It specifies for elementary schools, that beverages be limited to bottled water, 8 ounce servings of 100 percent juice, and 8 ounce servings of fat-free or low-fat milk.
In a mail survey conducted across four school years (2006 through 2009), investigators found that school administrator’s awareness of the Alliance’s food and beverage guidelines increased each year, from 29.4 percent in the first year to 40.2 percent in the last year of the survey. Administrators with a majority of Black students were less likely to be aware of the beverage guidelines. Administrators who reported having a district-level wellness policy were almost twice as likely as those who did not to implement beverage and food guidelines.