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Competitive Foods and Beverages

Information on competitive foods and beverages including definitions, background, compliance, resources, policy guidance, and frequently asked questions for sponsors participating in the National School Lunch Program or School Breakfast Program.

Overview

All public non-charter schools participating in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) or School Breakfast Program (SBP) must follow state and federal requirements for competitive foods and beverages. All charter or private schools participating in the NSLP or SBP must follow only the federal requirements. Competitive foods and beverages are those that are 1) sold, 2) to students, 3) on school campus, 4) during the school day, and 5) outside of the federally reimbursable meal programs. Examples may be foods or beverages sold in vending machines (that are not reimbursable meals), student stores, fundraisers, or á la carte items sold by the school food service department. This web page is updated as of August 2019.

Definitions

Competitive Foods

All food and beverages other than meals reimbursed under programs authorized by the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act and the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 available for sale to students on the school campus during the school day. [Title 7 Code of Federal Regulation (7 CFR) 210.11(a)(2) External link opens in new window or tab. and California Education Code (EC) Section 49430(c) External link opens in new window or tab.]

School Campus

All areas of the property under the jurisdiction of the school that are accessible to pupils during the school day. [7 CFR, Section 210.11(a)(4) External link opens in new window or tab.and California EC Section 49430(k) External link opens in new window or tab.]

School Day

The period from the midnight before to 30 minutes after the end of the official school day. [7 CFR, Section 210.11(5) External link opens in new window or tab. and California EC Section 49430(l) External link opens in new window or tab.]

Sold

The exchange of food or beverages for money, coupons, vouchers, or order forms when any part of the exchange occurs on a school campus. [California EC Section 49430(n) External link opens in new window or tab.]

Added Sweetener

An additive other than 100 percent fruit juice that enhances the sweetness of a beverage. [California EC Section 49430(a) External link opens in new window or tab.]

Entree

A food that is generally regarded as being the primary food in a meal or intended as the main dish and contains 1) a meat or meat alternate and a whole grain rich food, 2) a meat or meat alternate and a fruit or vegetable, or 3) a meat or meat alternate alone with the exception of yogurt, cheese, nuts, seeds, and meat snacks. [7 CFR, Section 210.11(a)(3) External link opens in new window or tab. and California EC Section 49430(f) External link opens in new window or tab.]

Snack

A food that is generally regarded as supplementing a meal, including, but not limited to, chips, crackers, yogurt, cheese, nuts, seeds, fruit, or vegetables. [California EC Section 49430(m) External link opens in new window or tab.]

Paired Exempt Foods

A combination of food items that have been designated as exempt from one or more of the nutrient requirements individually which are packaged together without any additional ingredients. Such “paired exempt foods” must only meet the calorie, sodium, and trans fat standards. [7 CFR, Section 210.11(a)(6) External link opens in new window or tab.]

Elementary School

A school operated and maintained by a school district or county office of education that maintains any grade from kindergarten to grade 6, inclusive, but no grade higher than grade 6. [California EC Section 49430(e) External link opens in new window or tab.]

Middle School

A school operated and maintained by a school district or county office of education that maintains grade 7 or 8, grades 7 to 9, inclusive, or grades 7 to 10, inclusive. [California EC Section 49430(i) External link opens in new window or tab.]

High School

A school operated and maintained by a school district or county office of education maintaining any of grades 9 to 12, inclusive. [California EC Section 49430(h) External link opens in new window or tab.]

Background and History

Competitive food and beverage requirements in California began in 1976 with rules that govern food and beverage sales by student organizations. Since 2001, due to awareness of the obesity epidemic, there have been numerous state laws passed which currently shape the competitive foods environment in California schools for all foods and beverages sold to students. In July 2014 schools implemented the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) competitive food regulations, called Smart Snacks in School (SSIS). In January 2017 California passed Senate Bill 1169 (McGuire) which streamlines state competitive food rules with the federal Smart Snacks in School rule. Today’s rules encompass a comprehensive approach to food and beverage sales by all groups or individuals, during the school day, throughout the school campus.

Compliance

The California Department of Education (CDE) monitors school food authorities (SFAs) and local educational agencies (LEAs) for compliance with the competitive food and beverage rules through the Administrative Review (AR) process [Title 7 Code of Federal Regulation (7 CFR), Section 210.9]. ARs occur approximately every three years. The CDE provides technical assistance when the standards are not met.

Note: The LEA is responsible for ensuring that all groups or individuals selling competitive foods or beverages maintain records that document compliance [7 CFR, Section 210.11(b)(2)].

  • Administrative Review Off-site Assessment Tool (OAT) Guidance
    Sponsors are required to fill out the OAT prior to the on-site review. To download the OAT guidance in the Child Nutrition Information and Payment System External link opens in new window or tab. (CNIPS), select School Nutrition Programs (SNP), select the Applications tab, select Downloadable Forms, and then select Form ID SNP 58 AR. For competitive food and beverage information, refer to questions numbered 1100-1103.
  • Administrative Review Guidance Chart
    Once the OAT is completed, the AR reviewer conducts an on-site review to validate the information submitted in the OAT and to observe the operation of programs at the SFA and in selected schools. Prior to the on-site AR, the state reviewer sends sponsors the Administrative Review Guidance Chart, so sponsors can prepare all required documents for the on-site AR. To download the guidance chart in CNIPS, select SNP, select the Applications tab, select Downloadable Forms, and then select Form ID SNP 42. For competitive food and beverage information, refer to page 17.
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Administrative Review Manual
    The USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) provides general guidance to state agencies on the areas of review. For complete transparency and to download the AR Manual in CNIPS, select SNP, select the Applications tab, select Downloadable Forms, and then select Form ID MANUAL AR. Once in the Administrative Review Manual, search for the Module titled Smart Snacks in School.

While the Nutrition Services Division monitors competitive foods throughout the AR process, the California Legislature encourages the governing board of a school district to annually review its compliance with the competitive food and beverage rules [California Education Code sections 49431(c), 49431.2(d) External link opens in new window or tab.]

For more information regarding Administrative Reviews, you can visit the CDE School Nutrition Programs Administrative Review web page.

Resources

The following resources address both state and federal competitive food and beverage requirements. These resources have been updated as of January 1, 2017 to incorporate changes made from California Senate Bill 1169 (McGuire, 2016).

Quick Reference Cards

Resource Description
California Department of Education (CDE) Competitive Food Quick Reference Cards—Public Schools
This quick reference card includes a summary of the state and federal competitive food and beverage standards for public non-charter schools.
This quick reference card includes a summary of the federal competitive food and beverage standards for public charter schools and private schools.

Tools

Resource Description
The Project Leaders Encouraging Activity and Nutrition (LEAN) online calculator integrates the California and federal competitive foods and beverages requirements. This calculator is developed for all California public non-charter schools participating in the NSLP or SBP.
Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Smart Snacks Online Calculator External link opens in new window or tab.
The Smart Snacks calculator includes only the federal competitive food and beverage requirements (called Smart Snacks in School). This calculator is developed for all California charter schools and private schools participating in the NSLP or SBP.

Additional Online Resources

To find additional online resources, visit the:

U.S. Department of Agriculture Smart Snacks in School web page External link opens in new window or tab. to search for tools for schools that focus on compliance with the federal Smart Snacks in School rule. Please note: in some situations California rules on competitive foods and beverages are stricter than federal requirements.

Policy Guidance

Competitive foods and beverages are governed by different laws, regulations, and policies at the federal, state, and school district levels.

Federal Requirements
State Requirements
Do the state or federal rules apply?
Local School Wellness Policy Final Rule
California Summary of Competitive Foods and Beverages
Management Bulletins

Federal Requirements

Smart Snacks in School Final Rule

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) developed federal regulations that require all schools across the nation that participate in either the NSLP or SBP to follow the federal competitive food and beverage standards called Smart Snacks in School (SSIS). The SSIS Final Rule can be found under Title 7 Code of Federal Regulation (7 CFR), Section 210.11 External link opens in new window or tab..

Additional background, including USDA Food and Nutrition Service responses to comments, can be found in the Federal Register External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF).

State Requirements

California Education Code

California has passed a number of laws that create or update the competitive food rules for all California public non-charter schools. These can be found under California Education Code (EC) sections 49430-49434 External link opens in new window or tab..

California Code of Regulations

The California State Board of Education has passed regulations that provide additional detail or definitions supporting the California EC. These can be found under the Title 5, California Code of Regulations (5 CCR), sections 15575-15578 External link opens in new window or tab..

All foods and beverages sold by a student organization, defined as a group of students that are not part of the curricula or academics of a school or school district, must ensure the items sold meet the food and beverage standards and must meet 5 CCR, sections 15550-15501 External link opens in new window or tab..

Do the state or federal rules apply?

All public non-charter schools participating in NSLP or SBP are required to follow both state and federal competitive food rules, whichever rule is stricter applies.

All charter and private schools participating in NSLP or SBP are required to follow federal competitive food rules only. They are not required to follow state rules.

Our Quick Reference Cards outline what rules each school type (public, charter, private) must follow:

Local School Wellness Policy Final Rule

The USDA developed federal regulations that require all schools across the nation that participate in either the NSLP or SBP to follow the federal Local School Wellness Policy External link opens in new window or tab. (LSWP) regulations. The LSWP has additional requirements that connect to competitive foods, including:

California Summary of Competitive Foods and Beverages

The following is a summary of the federal and state laws and regulations governing competitive food and beverage sales in California.

The LSWP must address all foods and beverages available (sold or given away) on school campus and restricts marketing and advertising of foods and beverages on school campus.

Local School Wellness Policy Requirements for Competitive Foods

  • All districts participating in the NSLP, SBP, or Special Milk Program must establish a local school wellness policy that, among other things, includes nutrition guidelines for all foods and beverages available on school campus, and only permit the marketing and advertising of foods and beverages that meet the SSIS standards under 7 CFR, Section 210.11. Reference: Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, Section 204; 7 CFR, parts 210.30 and 220.7

  • The LSWP should, at a minimum, incorporate the current state and federal rules that govern competitive foods and beverages, but can impose more stringent requirements. Reference: Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, Section 204; 7 CFR, parts 210.30 and 220.7

Local School Wellness Policy Public Notification

  • Every school or district participating in the NSLP or SBP shall inform the public about the content and implementation of the LSWP, and make the policy and any updates to the policy available to the public on an annual basis. Reference: California EC Section 49432; 7 CFR, Part 210.30

Marketing and Advertising of Foods and Beverages

  • Under the LSWP requirements, only foods and beverages that meet the federal SSIS standards can be marketed or advertised on school campus, during the school day.

Fundraising

  • Fundraising with foods and beverages is allowed in California schools. California does not allow exempted fundraisers. Similar to other food or beverage sales, if a fundraiser meets the competitive foods definition, then the items must meet the competitive foods requirements.

Elementary, Middle, and High School—Food and Beverage Restrictions

Management Bulletins

The USDA issues policy memoranda related to competitive foods and beverages. When merited, the California Department of Education (CDE) will release a subsequent management bulletin to include state specific policy guidance and/or further explain or clarify the topic.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: What does the term "competitive foods" mean?

Answer: California Education Code (EC) Section 49430(c) and the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Title 7 Section 210.11(a)(2) define “competitive foods” as all foods and beverages that are 1) sold, 2) to a student, 3) on the school campus, 4) during the school day and, 5) outside of the federally reimbursable meal program. All five criteria must be true in order for the competitive food rules to apply.

Question: Where can I find the rules governing the sales of competitive foods and beverages?

Answer: The federal competitive food regulations, called Smart Snacks in School, are found under the Title 7 Code of Federal Regulation, Section 210.11 External link opens in new window or tab..

The California competitive food regulations are found in California Education Code sections 49430-49434 External link opens in new window or tab., California Code of Regulations sections 15575-15578 External link opens in new window or tab., and California Code of Regulations 15500-15501 External link opens in new window or tab..

A summary of the competitive food requirements can be found on our Quick Reference Cards—Public Schools or Quick Reference Cards—Charter or Private Schools.

Question: What is the definition of "sold"?

Answer: Sold means “the exchange of food or beverages for money, coupons, vouchers, or order forms, when any part of the exchange occurs on a school campus. A competitive food or beverage is sold only when there is an actual exchange of foods and/or beverages.”

A competitive food is “sold” when:

  1. There is money exchanged for a competitive food or beverage by a student, on school campus, during the school day;

  2. There is an exchange of money for a coupon or voucher by a student, on school campus, during the school day AND an exchange of a competitive food or beverage including the student on school campus during the school day (does not have to be on the same school day), or

  3. An order form is completed by a student on school campus, during the school day AND a student receives the competitive food or beverage on school campus, during the school day.

Refer to Management Bulletin SNP-28-2014 for more information and clarification of the definition of sold.

Question: Do the competitive food requirements apply to foods and beverages that are served or given away (and not sold)?

Answer: Foods that are given away are not subject to the state or federal competitive food and beverage rules. Examples of foods given away include rewards for good behavior or classroom parties. However, schools on the National School Lunch Program should review their Local School Wellness Policy since a district can be stricter than state or federal rules.

Question: Which set of rules (elementary, middle, or high school) must a K-8 campus follow? A 7-12 campus?

Answer: California EC sections 49430(e), 49430(i), and 49430(h) define “elementary school,” “high school,” and “middle school” respectively.

“Elementary school” means a school operated and maintained by a school district or county office of education that maintains any grade from kindergarten to grade 6, inclusive, but no grade higher than grade 6.

“Middle school” means a school operated and maintained by a school district or county office of education that maintains grade 7 or 8, grades 7 to 9, inclusive, or grades 7 to 10, inclusive.

“High school” means a school operated and maintained by a school district or county office of education maintaining any of grades 9 to 12, inclusive.

Therefore, a campus containing grades K–8 is considered a middle school; a campus containing grades 7–12 is considered a high school; when referring to competitive food requirements.

Contact Us

If you have any questions on this subject, please contact the Competitive Foods and Beverages team by email at COMPETITIVEFOODS@cde.ca.gov.

Follow @CDENutrition on Twitter.

Questions:   Nutrition Services Division | COMPETITIVEFOODS@cde.ca.gov
Last Reviewed: Friday, September 27, 2019
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