Competitive Foods in Schools

Overview

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Competitive foods are all foods and beverages available for sale to students on school premises, separately from reimbursable meals and snacks served through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Child Nutrition Programs (CNPs). Under Section 10-215b-1 of the Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies, competitive foods also include candy, coffee, tea, and soft drinks that are given to students on school premises while CNPs are operating. 

Competitive foods are governed by federal and state laws, which require that foods and beverages must meet nutrition standards and other restrictions. Some laws apply differently depending on whether the school is a public school, private school, or residential child care institution (RCCI). Some laws apply during the school day, while others apply at all times or while the CNPs are operating. When the federal and state laws supersede each other, schools must follow the stricter requirements. For an overview of the federal and state laws and when they apply, see the CSDE's handout, Overview of Federal and State Laws for Competitive Foods in Connecticut Public Schools, Private Schools, and Residential Child Care Institutions

Nutrition Standards for Competitive Foods

All competitive foods available for sale to students on school premises must comply with federal and state nutrition standards. Connecticut public schools, private schools, and RCCIs that participate in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) must comply with the USDA's Smart Snacks nutrition standards . Connecticut public schools that choose the healthy food option of Healthy Food Certification (HFC) under Section 10-215f of the Connecticut General Statutes (C.G.S.) must comply with the Connecticut Nutrition Standards (CNS). All Connecticut public schools (HFC and non-HFC) must comply with the state beverage statute (C.G.S. Section 10-221q). 

  • Sale means the exchange of a determined amount of money or its equivalent (such as coupons, tickets, tokens, and similar items) for foods and beverages. Sales also include programs and activities that charge a fee that includes the cost of foods and beverages provided to students, and activities that suggest a student donation in exchange for foods and beverages. Under Connecticut’s statutes and regulations for competitive foods, sales include coupons and similar items that are given to students (such as food rewards), and can be exchanged for foods and beverages. However, Smart Snacks does not apply when coupons and similar items are given to students.
  • School premises include all areas of the property under the jurisdiction of the local or regional board of education, the regional vocational-technical school system (Connecticut Technical Education and Career System (CTECS)), or the governing authority district or school.

For information on the differences between the federal and state nutrition standards for competitive foods, see the CSDE’s handout, Comparison Chart of the Connecticut Nutrition Standards and the USDA Smart Snacks Nutrition Standards.

Other Requirements for Competitive Foods

In addition to the federal and state nutrition standards, schools must also comply with the federal and state requirements below. For additional guidance, see the resources listed under each requirement.

Connecticut Nutrition Standards (CNS)

Effective July 1, 2006, the CNS applies to all foods available for sale to students in public schools that choose the healthy food option of Healthy Food Certification (HFC) under C.G.S. Section 10-215f Opens in a new window. The CNS exceeds the USDA's Smart Snacks standards. The resources below provide guidance on the CNS. 

Smart Snacks

Effective July 1, 2014, the USDA's Smart Snacks nutrition standards apply to all competitive foods available for sale to students in public schools, private schools, and RCCIs that participate in the NSLP and SBP. Smart Snacks applies to all areas of the school campus during the school day.  

  • The school campus is all areas of the property under the jurisdiction of the school that are accessible to students during the school day.
  • The school day is the period from the midnight before to 30 minutes after the end of the official school day. For example, if school ends at 3:00 p.m., the school day is midnight to 3:30 p.m. A summer school program operated by the board of education or school governing authority is part of the regular school day.

NOTE: Foods sold to students in Connecticut public school districts that choose the healthy food option of HFC under C.G.S. Section 10-215f Opens in a new window must comply with the stricter CNS. The CSDE maintains a list of HFC districts for the current school year.


The resources below provide guidance on Smart Snacks.