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School Nutrition

Results from the 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), using measured heights and weights, indicate that an estimated 17% of children and adolescents aged 2-19 years are obese. Between 1976-1980 and 1999-2000, the prevalence of obesity among 12-19 year-olds has tripled. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), less than 40% of children and adolescents in the United States (U.S.) meet the U.S. dietary guidelines for saturated fat and 85% of adolescent females do not consume enough calcium. According to the CDC Youth Risk Behavior Survey, in 2009 only 22.3% of high school students reported eating fruits and vegetables five or more times daily during the past 7 days.

The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) provides meals for more than 30 million children each day and operates in more than 100,000 public and nonprofit private schools. The School Breakfast Program (SBP) provides breakfast to more than 10 million students each day. Both the NSLP and the SBP can have a significant role in child nutrition and the public health concern of childhood obesity.

For more information, visit CDC's Adolescent and School Health website.

Policy and Regulation

  • School Nutrition Association (SNA)
    The SNA mission is to advance good school nutrition for all children. The SNA website contains current policies and regulations and several publications related to school nutrition policy, including the Journal of Child Nutrition and Management, School Nutrition and several newsletters.
  • Food Research and Action Center (FRAC)
    FRAC is a national nonprofit organization that works to improve public policies and public-private partnerships to end hunger in the U.S. FRAC staff work on policy issues related to a variety of hunger and nutrition programs, including food stamps, WIC, school lunch and breakfast, summer and afterschool meals, as well as related hunger and obesity issues.
  • Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI)
    CSPI's webpage, "Policy Options: Improve School Meals," provides links to various studies and reports, including the USDA reports from 2001 and 2007 titled "School Nutrition Dietary Assessment Study II" and "School Nutrition Dietary Assessment Study III."

Federal Legislation

  • Authorization Note
    The SBP and the NSLP are permanently authorized. Other child nutrition programs must be reauthorized every 5 years. For example, the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), State Administrative Expenses (SAE), the Special Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and similar smaller child nutrition programs must be reauthorized because Congress includes sunset dates in their authorizing legislation. The Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 expired on September 30, 2009 and was extended until September 30, 2010.
  • United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
    Last updated in May 2009, the USDA provides public laws and their amendments, including legislative history, information about development, and the current status of the National School Lunch Program and its related components.
  • Child Nutrition Act of 1966
    The Child Nutrition Act of 1966: P.L. 89-642 (October 11, 1966) permanently authorizes the special milk program and the school breakfast program.
  • Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act
    The National School Lunch Act permanently authorizes the USDA to provide assistance to states in the establishment, maintenance, operation, and expansion of school lunch programs.

State and Local Legislation

  • National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL)
    Last updated in January 2010, the NCSL maintains "Childhood Obesity: 2009 Update of Legislative Policy Options." This webpage provides a summary of state-level legislation on several topics related to childhood nutrition, including school nutrition legislation.
  • National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE)
    NASBE maintains a comprehensive summary of state legislation related to school policies and state laws related to competitive food and drinks in the school environment. The "State School Healthy Policy" database includes data on policies and laws for all 50 states relating to vending machines in the school setting, foods available through school stores and a la carte lines, food sales in school, food marketing, foods sold as fund raisers, and school gardening.
  • California
    The following bills were signed into California law: SB12 established California's food nutrition standards for K-12 public schools; SB281 provided $18.2 million to promote a framework for increasing fruits and vegetables in school meal programs; and SB965 banned all soda in middle and high schools.
  • Kentucky
    Since 2005, Kentucky state law [PDF-7KB] has required the Kentucky Board of Education to promulgate an administrative regulation that restricts the sale of beverages to water, 100% fruit juice, low-fat milk, and any beverage that contains less than 10 grams of sugar per serving. This limitation applies to vending machines, school stores, canteens, or fundraisers that sell beverages to students, teachers, or groups.
  • Louisiana
    In 2009, the legislature enacted HB 767, which defines specific standards for the types of beverages that schools can serve or make available in the school setting. The statute requires beverages offered for sale to high school students to be comprised of bottled water; no-calorie or low-calorie beverages that contain up to 10 calories per eight ounces; up to 12-ounce servings of beverages that contain 100% fruit juice with no added sweeteners and up to 120 calories per 8 ounces; up to 12-ounce servings of any other beverage that contains no more than 66 calories per 8 ounces; or low-fat milk, skim milk, and nondairy milk.
  • Philadelphia
    An article published in Pediatrics (2008) describes a community-originated, 2-year, school-based intervention to prevent overweight and obesity. The intervention, taking place in the City of Philadelphia School District included implementing, in part, a comprehensive school nutrition policy to reduce the incidence of overweight and obesity among school age children in grades 4 through 6 who attended public schools. Researchers studying the program found it resulted in a 50% reduction in the incidence of children in the intervention group being overweight. No differences were observed related to obesity incidence. A comprehensive review of the program can be accessed on the Food Trust website.

Disclaimer: Information available on this website that was not developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not necessarily represent any CDC policy, position, or endorsement of that information or of its sources. The information contained on this website is not legal advice; if you have questions about a specific law or its application you should consult your legal counsel.

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