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Healthy Food Service Guidelines

Worksites are an important part of the food environment. One way to make worksites healthier is to put into action food service guidelines, which are a set of standards and best practices that make healthier choices more available in food service facilities. The potential benefits of healthy food service guidelines are many, and include the following:

  • Contributing to health and wellness of employees.
  • Setting a positive example for employees, stakeholders, community members, or other employers.
  • Increasing consumer demand for healthier food provided by food suppliers.
  • Strengthening local food systems.

Food Service Guidelines for Federal Facilities

	Cover image: Food Service Guidelines for Federal Facilities

The Food Service Guidelines for Federal Facilities [PDF-3.40MB] is a set of voluntary best business practices that can be used to increase healthy and safe food options for employees. The standards in the Food Service Guidelines for Federal Facilities are designed to achieve three primary goals:

  • Healthier foods and beverages are available and encouraged at federal facilities.
  • Environmentally responsible practices are conducted in federal food service venues.
  • Food safety practices are followed to minimize the risk of foodborne illnesses.

The Food Service Guidelines for Federal Facilities are intended to be used by federal facilities in their food service concession and vending operations.

Providing Healthy Choices

In alignment with the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the Food Service Guidelines for Federal Facilities include food and nutrition standards that support healthier choices; such as,

  • A variety of fruit and vegetable options, including seasonal.
  • Whole grain-rich options.
  • Plant-based proteins.
  • Lean protein entrees.
  • Freely available drinking water.
  • Meals, entrees, and sides with less sodium.

Enabling Efficient Facility Practices

The Food Service Guidelines for Federal Facilities supports more efficient food service practices; such as,

  • Offering incentives for using reusable beverage containers.
  • Using environmentally preferable cleaning products.
  • Using compostable and bio-based trays, flatware, plates, and bowls.
  • Providing seafood options where offered, by purchasing seafood from responsibly managed, sustainable, healthy fisheries.

Reducing the Risk of Food-Borne Illness

The Food Service Guidelines for Federal Facilities has aligned food safety standards with the Food and Drug Administration Food Code to ensure protection against foodborne illnesses by encouraging facilities to do the following:

  • Write comprehensive food safety plans.
  • Develop employee health policies to reduce the risk of transmitting foodborne illness.
  • Create policies to address employee food safety handling.

These guidelines help make the healthier choice the easier choice through calorie labeling of food items, making healthier options more available, and limiting less healthful foods.

Resources to Support Implementation

The CDC has developed resources for implementing food service guidelines to provide healthier food and beverage options in federal facilities.

The Smart Food Choices: How to Implement Food Service Guidelines in PublicThe Smart Food Choices: How to Implement Food Service Guidelines in Public Facilities [PDF-1.82MB] guide includes action steps to help you implement food service guidelines in your government work site or other public facility to increase the availability of healthier food and beverage options at food service venues, including cafeterias, concession stands, snack bars, and vending machines.

Food Services Guide coverThe Food Service Guidelines: Case Studies from States and Communities [PDF-1.9MB] highlights five case studies of food and beverage guidelines developed to improve the food environment. The case studies provide information on the implementation and evaluation of food service guidelines, along with descriptions of site-specific successes and challenges.


Tips For Offering Healthier Options and Physical Activity at Workplace Meetings and EventsThe Tips For Offering Healthier Options and Physical Activity at Workplace Meetings and Events [PDF-587KB] document includes tips and resources for increasing healthier food and beverage options at worksite meetings, parties, conferences, and events and for offering physical activity opportunities for employees throughout the work day.


	Healthy Hospital Environments toolkit The Healthy Hospital Environments toolkit provides guidance to promote and support healthy food, beverage, and physical activity options in hospitals. It includes information about engaging stakeholders, assessing needs, and it also contains assessment tools for food, beverage and physical activity environments.



	Improving the Food Environment Through Nutrition Standards: A Guide for Government ProcurementThe Improving the Food Environment Through Nutrition Standards: A Guide for Government Procurement [PDF-652KB] document provides practical guidance to states and localities for use when developing, adopting, implementing, and evaluating a food procurement policy.


	Cover image: The Health and Sustainability Guidelines for Federal Concessions and Vending Operations (2011) The Health and Sustainability Guidelines for Federal Concessions and Vending Operations (2011) [PDF-1.30MB] document has been updated and renamed as of 2016–see Food Service Guidelines for Federal Facilities [PDF-3.34MB]. The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the US General Services Administration (GSA) collaboratively released Health and Sustainability Guidelines for Federal Concessions and Vending Operations (2011) in March 2011, in an effort to assist employees in making healthier food and beverage choices and to create an efficient and environmentally beneficial food service system.

Success Stories

The Healthy Hospital Practice to Practice (P2P) series presents case studies of hospitals that have improved their environments to better support the health of their employees, communities, and the mission of their organizations. Read how some hospitals have improved healthier offerings in their cafeterias and vending machines.

  • Issue #1: Improving Hospital Food and Beverage Environments [PDF-1.30MB]
    Find out how Cleveland Clinic and Good Shepherd Hospital are leading the way by offering a healthier food and beverage environment.
  • Issue #2: Improving Hospital Food and Beverage Environments [PDF-1.27MB]
    Fairview Hospital and Baptist Health South Florida share how they are supporting employee health by changing their food and beverage policies and practices
  • Issue #3: Improving Hospital Food and Beverage Environments [PDF-824KB]
    Saint Vincent Healthcare and University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina describe the following steps they are taking to help employees make healthy choices:
    • Put into action healthier food service guidelines in hospital and federal worksite cafeterias
    • CDC supported a project by the North Carolina Institute of Public Health (NCIPH) to examine five hospitals and four federal worksite food service operators across the country to understand facilitators’ barriers
    • The findings from the NCIPH project were published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetic and describe the experiences of food service operators in implementing healthy food service guidelines and identify implementation facilitators and barriers.
    • NCIPH followed up with food service operators that were most successful in implementing the food service guidelines, and published five success stories that highlight the implementation, challenges and solutions, and keys to success for each hospital or federal worksite food service operator.
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