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Nutrition Standards for Foods in Schools
Nutrition Standards for Foods in Schools: Leading the Way Toward Healthier Youth
*—Special Report from the Institute of Medicine

Healthy eating is associated with reduced risk for many diseases, including the three leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, and stroke.1 Healthy eating in childhood and adolescence is important for proper growth and development and can prevent health problems such as obesity, dental caries, and iron deficiency anemia.1 Most young people are not following the recommendations set forth in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans: of U.S. youth aged 6-19, 67% exceed dietary guidelines recommendations for fat intake, 72% exceed recommendations for saturated fat intake.2 In 2007, only 21.4% of high school students reported eating fruits and vegetables five or more times daily (when fried potatoes and potato chips are excluded) during the past 7 days.3

checkmarkNutrition and the Health of Young People

checkmarkHow CDC's Division of Adolescent and School Health is Addressing Nutrition [pdf 562K]

Data & Statistics

School Health Policies and Programs Study (SHPPS)
SHPPS is a national survey periodically conducted to assess school health policies and programs at the state, district, school, and classroom levels, including those related to healthy eating.

Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS)
The YRBSS monitors behaviors that contribute markedly to the leading causes of death, disability, and social problems among youth and adults in the United States.

Science-based Strategies

The Role of Schools in Addressing Childhood Obesity [pdf 627K] outlines 10 evidence-based strategies for schools to implement in addressing childhood obesity.

See Nutrition: School Health Guidelines for strategies most likely to be effective in promoting healthy eating among young people. Information includes the full text as published in the MMWR, and more.

Nutrition Standards for Foods In Schools: Leading the Way Toward Healthier Youth.* This report, published by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), provides nutrition guidance for schools seeking to implement or improve upon their current wellness policies. The report includes the IOM’s recommendations about nutrition standards for foods offered in competition with federally reimbursable meals and snacks.

School Nutrition Success Stories


Making It Happen: School Nutrition Success Stories contains 32 success stories of innovative K-12 schools across the United States that improved their school nutrition environments for foods and beverages sold and offered outside of federal meal programs. Making It Happen includes ideas on what to improve, how to do it, and partners in change. Making It Happen was jointly published with the Food and Nutrition Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture and supported by the U.S. Department of Education.

The School Health Index can help schools implement school health guidelines and related strategies. This self-assessment and planning tool enables schools to identify the strengths and weaknesses of health promotion policies and programs and assists schools in developing an action plan for improving the school environment.

Health Education Curriculum Analysis Tool (HECAT). The Health Education Curriculum Analysis Tool (HECAT) can help school districts, schools, and others conduct a clear, complete, and consistent analysis of health education curricula based on the National Health Education Standards and CDC’s Characteristics of Effective Health Education Curricula. The HECAT results can help schools select or develop appropriate and effective health education curricula and improve the delivery of health education to address healthy eating, physical activity and other health education topics. The HECAT can be customized to meet local community needs and conform to the curriculum requirements of the state or school district.

Registries of Programs Effective in Reducing Youth Risk Behaviors. Various federal agencies have identified youth-related programs that they consider worthy of recommendation based on expert opinion or a review of design and research evidence. These programs focus on different health topics, risk behaviors, and settings, including diet and nutrition.

The Body Mass Index Measurement in Schools article describes the purpose of school-based BMI surveillance and screening programs, examine current practices, and review research on BMI measurement programs. The article summarizes the recommendations of experts, identifies concerns surrounding programs, and outlines needs for future research. Guidance is provided on specific safeguards that need to be addressed before schools decide to collect BMI information.

Policy Guidance

Local Wellness Policy Tools & Resources provides links to tools and resources for schools to assist with the development of local wellness policies in accordance with the June 2004 Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act (Sec 204).

National, State, and Local Programs

CDC's Division of Adolescent and School Health (DASH) supports the development and implementation of effective health promotion policies and programs that address priority health risks among youth. For information about the actions that state agencies can implement to address these health risks, see CDC's:

Steps to a HealthierUS is an initiative from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that advances the goal of helping Americans live longer, better, and healthier lives. The Steps Cooperative Agreement Program funds 40 communities nationwide to implement school and other community-based programs that address obesity, diabetes, and asthma, as well as their related risk behaviors: physical inactivity, poor nutrition, and tobacco use.

Accommodating Children with Special Dietary Needs in the School Nutrition Programs: Guidance for School Food Service Staff. [pdf 849K] This guidance from the United States Department of Agriculture describes some of the factors which must be considered in the early phases of planning and suggests ways in which the school food service can interact with other responsible parties in the school and the community at large to serve children with special needs.


  1.  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Surgeon General's call to action to prevent and decrease overweight and obesity. Rockville, MD.: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health  Service, Office of the Surgeon General, 2001.
  2. U. S. Department of Agriculture. Continuing survey of food intakes by individuals, 1994-96, 1998.
  3. CDC. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance—United States, 2007. Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report 2008;57(SS-05):1–131.

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Page last reviewed: October 20, 2008
Page last modified: October 20, 2008
Content source: National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division of Adolescent and School Health

Division of Adolescent and School Health
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Department of Health and Human Services