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Competitive Foods and Beverages


Competitive foods and beverages are those that are sold at school outside of and in competition with the federally reimbursable meal programs. Examples of competitive foods and beverages include those sold during the school day in vending machines (that are not reimbursable meals), student stores, á la carte items sold by the school food service department, or as fundraisers.

Competitive foods and beverages are governed by different laws, regulations, or policies at the federal, state, and school district levels. Congress enacts federal laws and the United States Department of Agriculture promulgates regulations related to school nutrition. At the state level, the Legislature enacts laws and the State Board of Education adopts regulations related to nutrition. Lastly, each school district participating in a federally reimbursable meal program is required to adopt a Local School Wellness Policy.

While it is necessary for groups selling foods and beverages on school campuses to know and understand each set of rules and how they interrelate, the variety of federal and state laws and regulations (and local policies) are complicated and may appear to be confusing. To assist with compliance and understanding, the California Department of Education, Nutrition Services Division created the following list of tools and resources. As the competitive food and beverage requirements evolve, the NSD will continue to update and add relevant tools and other resources.

If you have any questions, please contact Mike Danzik, Nutrition Education Consultant, at 916-445-7346 or by e-mail at

Information, Tools, and Resources

Summary of Competitive Food and Beverage Requirements (Updates coming soon)
An overview of the different laws and regulations that govern competitive foods and beverage sales on school campuses.

Competitive Food Frequently Asked Questions (Updates coming soon)
A list of questions and answers to aid understanding of the competitive food and beverage requirements.

Competitive Food and Beverage Training (Updates coming soon)
Training modules for competitive food and beverage regulations.

Competitive Food Quick Reference Cards—Public Schools (DOC; Updated 07-Oct-2014)
A compact set of cards containing a summary of the competitive food and beverage requirements for Public Schools to laminate and keep with you for quick reference.

Competitive Food Quick Reference Cards—Charter or Private Schools (DOC; Updated 10-Dec-2014)
A compact set of cards containing a summary of the competitive food and beverage requirements for Charter or Private Schools to laminate and keep with you for quick reference.

Management Bulletins and Information Alerts (Updates coming soon)
Links to applicable competitive food and beverage communications distributed by the California Department of Education’s Nutrition Services Division.

California Project Leaders Encouraging Activity and Nutrition (LEAN) Calculator External link opens in new window or tab.
California Project LEAN has updated their online calculator to integrate the California and USDA requirements for competitive foods and beverages.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Smart Snacks in School External link opens in new window or tab.
This USDA Web page provides tools for schools that focus on smart snacks and compliance with the federal Smart Snacks in School rule. Keep in mind that in some situations California rules on competitive foods and beverages are stricter than federal requirements.

Questions:   Mike Danzik | | 916-445-7346
Rema El-Mahmoud | | 916-323-5757
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