Controlling Junk Foods in K-12 Schools

A rapidly growing body of evidence supports the move to not only improve school lunches but also the “competitive foods” sold on school grounds, such as vending machine snacks and beverages.


On October 29, 2012, at the Annual American Public Health Association’s 140th Annual Meeting and Expo in San Francisco, during a session entitled “Regulating Competitive Foods in Schools,” a panel of national experts on the subject made a call to action: saying the research supporting the need for stronger nutrition standards is solid – what is really needed are concrete examples how schools can successfully transition to stronger nutrition standards without breaking the bank.


The very next day, the Illinois Public Health Institute explicitly acknowledged and answered that call to action by presenting qualitative case studies of eight school districts across the country that successfully transitioned to stronger nutrition standards in a way that was politically tenable and did not break the bank.  These success stories serve to inform and inspire action among other school districts that might otherwise be hesitant to take action.  If you couldn’t make it to San Francisco, or you want to catch up on the conversation, click here to review our presentation. 


A manuscript is in final stages of development.  To receive copy of the final manuscript when it is published, please email


The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is set to release nutritional guidelines on competitive foods sold in schools sometime in the coming year. Illinois Public Health Institute plans to submit its case studies on competitive foods to the USDA during the public comment period on those guidelines.  In addition, the Institute is committed to raising grassroots support for strengthening competitive foods nutrition standards through advocacy.




Acknowledgement of Support:


This project was funded by the Policy Research, Analysis, and Development Office (PRADO) in the Office of the Associate Director for Policy as part of the CDC’s Innovations in Public Health Policy Competition.  Now in its third year, in cooperation with the National Network of Public Health Institute, this competition fosters greater awareness of policy as an intervention to support public health goals, inspire cross-agency collaboration within CDC, and promote NNPHI member institutes as viable partners.

 For more information, contact Elissa Bassler,