California Project LEAN





Leaders Encouraging Activity and Nutrition

USDA Today Releases
Smart Snacks in School Interim Rule


After reviewing nearly 250,000 comments on the "Smart Snacks in School" rule, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today released nutrition standards for competitive foods and drinks sold outside the federally-supported meal programs.

The potable water provision, similar to California's legislation, requires schools participating in the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs to make potable water available to children at no charge in the places where meals are served, must be implemented 60 days after the date of publication in the Federal Register. USDA expects the rule to be published this week in the Federal Register. All other provisions of the rule must be implemented beginning on July 1, 2014.


The "Smart Snacks in School" rule sets minimum nutrition standards that states across the nation must follow. States and school districts can keep or adopt standards that are stricter than USDA's. This is good news in California, where school districts have worked hard to put standards in place - some even stricter than California's legislated nutrition standards for foods and drinks sold outside the school meal programs.


California Project LEAN has been working with school districts since 1994 to adopt competitive food and drink standards that are stricter than national and state standards. As of late, much of California Project LEAN's work in schools has focused on increasing access to healthier drinks like water and low- or non-fat unflavored milk and decreasing access to the last remaining sugary drinks in California schools: flavored milk and sports drinks. This work has been funded by CA4Health, a Community Transformation Grant awarded to the Public Health Institute in partnership with the California Department of Public Health, The California Endowment, and a Communities Putting Prevention to Work grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  


Under the "Smart Snacks in School" rule, sports drinks would be prohibited in elementary or middle/junior high schools. Currently in California sports drinks can be sold in middle/junior high and high schools. However, under the Federal rule, lower calorie versions of sports drinks would be allowable in high schools if they have a maximum of 40 calories per 8 fluid ounces or 60 calories per 12 fluid ounces. Additionally, flavored non-fat milk and milk alternatives are allowable for K-12 schools under the "Smart Snacks in School" rule.


Even though the "Smart Snacks in School" rule would allow flavored non-fat milk in all schools and lower-calorie versions of sports drinks in high schools, California Project LEAN will continue to work with school districts and health advocates across the state to prohibit those drinks K-12. 

Other highlights of the "Smart Snacks in School" nutrition standards include: 

  • More of the foods we should encourage. Like the new school meals, the standards require healthier foods, more whole grains, low fat dairy, fruits, vegetables and leaner protein.
  • Less of the foods we should avoid. Food items are lower in fat, sugar, and sodium and provide more of the nutrients kids need.
  • Targeted standards. Allowing variation by age group for factors such as portion size.
  • Classroom Celebrations. Under the rule, parents can send their kids to school with homemade lunches or treats for activities such as birthday parties, holidays, and other celebrations.
  • Ample time for implementation. Schools and food and beverage companies will have an entire school year to make the necessary changes, and USDA will offer training and technical assistance every step of the way.
  • Limitations on when and where the standards apply. The rule requires that standards only affect foods that are sold on school campus during the school day. Foods sold at after school sporting events or other activities are not subject to these requirements. 

The California Department of Education has said that once the rule is officially adopted, then it will overlay the federal rule with California legislation to select the stronger nutrition standards, thereby resulting in updated standards for California schools. More details will be forthcoming.

For more information on the Smart Snacks in School Rule, see   

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
P.O. Box 997377, MS-7211 - Sacramento, CA 95899-7377
June 2013
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