California Project LEAN

Leaders Encouraging Activity and Nutrition


In this edition of California Project LEAN's (CPL) enews, you will learn about the U.S. Department of Agriculture's proposed nutrition standards for Smart Snacks in Schools, expected to be published in the Federal Register this week.  Once published, the public will have 60 days to comment.


Cyndi Guerra Walter

Program Director

California Project LEAN

Coming Soon! 

Opportunity to Review and Comment on USDA's  Smart Snacks in Schools Rule

California Project LEAN (Leaders Encouraging Activity and Nutrition), a program of the Public Health Institute, and others across the state and nation are reviewing the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) just released 'Smart Snacks in Schools' proposed nutrition standards for competitive foods and beverages sold outside the school meal programs.

CPL will work with the California Department of Education's (CDE) Nutrition Services Division and other partners to analyze the proposed regulations and provide training and technical assistance to the school community.  California was one of the leading states in the nation to adopt competitive food and beverage standards, requiring implementation of competitive food standards in July 2007 and beverage standards to be 100% compliant by July 2009.

USDA Proposes Minimum Standards

"California Project LEAN applauds the USDA for proposing minimum nutrition standards for foods and beverages sold in schools throughout the nation," said Cyndi Guerra Walter, Program Director for the Public Health Institute's (PHI) California Project LEAN program. "A key component of the USDA proposal is that states and school districts can keep or adopt standards that go above and beyond them. This is especially important in California as we don't want to lose momentum on the strides many school districts have made to go above and beyond California's legislated nutrition standards."

Comparing the Standards

A preliminary analysis of the federal proposal shows that these standards differ from California's standards in a number of areas.

Beverage standards, for example, are different in the following ways: 

  • Federal minimum standards, if passed, would allow for diet and low-calorie artificially-sweetened beverages in high schools, but not in the meal service area during meal service periods. These drinks are currently prohibited in any California public school per state legislation.
    • The federal standards allow lower calorie electrolyte replacement beverages, more commonly known as sports drinks, in high schools, only. California law allows higher sugar sports drinks in middle and high schools.
  • Federal standards also would allow for caffeinated beverages in high schools, which currently are prohibited by California law in any public school.
  • While California allows 2% reduced fat, 1% lowfat and nonfat milk to be sold in public schools, the proposed federal law would prohibit 2% milk from being sold and allow only 1% or nonfat milk. 

"In some cases, the proposed federal standards are nutritionally stronger than California standards," said Guerra Walter. "Higher sugar sports drinks, for example, would be banned in middle and high schools and that goes a long way toward decreasing access to sugary beverages since research has shown that when California banned sodas from public schools, sports drinks became one of the most frequently offered beverage for sale in middle and high schools.

"In other areas, however, the proposed standards allow for products such as caffeinated beverages and artificially-sweetened diet and low-calorie drinks in high schools that we would rather not introduce. Although caffeinated and diet drinks are low- or no-calorie, they don't provide the nutrients that children need for growth. Plus, these drinks might replace other foods and beverages that do provide nutrients that children need. Schools should provide the most nutritious products possible."

And the Survey Says

Field Poll results released recently by CA4Health, the PHI Community Transformation Grant project focusing on rural California counties, show strong community support in rural areas (61% favor strongly; 18% favor somewhat) for strengthening school nutrition standards to limit unhealthy foods and drinks sold in schools.  The results are consistent with other California surveys in previous years.  


Research has shown that implementing competitive food and beverage standards can have a positive impact on reducing the risk for obesity-related chronic diseases. A national study comparing California high school students with those from states with no competitive food and beverage standards found that California students consumed fewer calories, less fat and less sugar.

A Thorough Analysis is Underway

California Project LEAN and CDE will conduct a more thorough analysis of the proposed federal standards over the next few weeks. The proposed standards are part of a comprehensive effort required by the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 to ensure school environments make healthy choices easier to access for all public school students, whether they participate in the federally-subsidized school meals or purchase foods and beverages from snack bars, student stores or vending machines.


"California Project LEAN,through its PHI-funded grants, will continue its 20-year history of working with California school districts across the state to adopt the best possible nutrition standards that contribute needed nutrients for our public school students," Guerra Walter said.

Key Links

The proposed USDA standards can be found at Once the USDA standards are published in the Federal Register, expected sometime this week, the public will have 60 days to provide feedback through

About California Project LEAN

California Project LEAN, a program of the Public Health Institute, works to advance nutrition and physical activity policy in schools and communities in order to prevent obesity and its associated chronic diseases. California Project LEAN efforts center on youth, parent and resident empowerment approaches, policy and environmental change strategies, and community-based solutions that improve nutrition and physical activity environments. For more information, go to

About the Public Health Institute             

The Public Health Institute, an independent nonprofit organization, is dedicated to promoting health, well-being and quality of life for people throughout California, across the nation and around the world. For more information, go to

California Project LEAN | PO Box 997377, MS 7211 | Sacramento | CA | 95899
Tel: (916) 552-9907 | Fax: (916) 552-9909 |

February 2013
Girl at Playground
In This Issue
Opportunity to Review and Comment on USDA's Smart Snacks in Schools Rule
About California Project LEAN
About the Public Health Institute

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