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Office for Food and Nutrition Programs

Implementing Massachusetts School Nutrition Standards for Competitive Foods and Beverages

To:School Superintendents, Principals and Nutrition Directors
From:Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education; John Auerbach, Commissioner, Department of Public Health
Date:November 15, 2011


Recently, many states have created nutrition standards for foods and beverages sold in schools to improve child health and to help reduce the rate of childhood overweight and obesity. Schools in these states have been able to implement strong nutrition standards successfully and still maintain financial stability. In July 2010, the Massachusetts State Legislature passed a law requiring the Department of Public Health (DPH), in coordination with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE), to develop evidence-based nutrition standards for Massachusetts public schools. The Commonwealth is committed to providing a healthy school environment for all students. That means offering nourishing food and beverage choices, such as nutrient-rich fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy products that promote growth and development, enhance learning, and help students form healthy life-long eating habits.

The new standards are focused on "competitive" foods and beverages sold or provided in public schools during the school day. The standards do not apply to school meals programs, which follow USDA national guidelines. Competitive foods and beverages are those provided in:

  • school cafeteria à la carte items (sold separately from school meals)
  • school stores, snack bars, vending machines and concession stands
  • school booster sales, fund-raising activities and other school-sponsored or school-related events
  • school buildings and any other location on school property, including classrooms and hallways

The standards apply to items sold or provided from 30 minutes before the beginning of the school day until 30 minutes after the school day ends. Foods and beverages sold in vending machines must meet the standards at all times. These standards take effect in all Massachusetts public schools in August, 2012.

Having accurate information and helpful resources is one of the best ways to address concerns about the possible negative impact the new regulations may have on school finances. We have developed Download PDF Document "Healthy Students, Healthy Schools: Guidance for Implementing Massachusetts School Nutrition Standards for Competitive Foods and Beverages." This guide will provide schools with practical information for implementing the nutrition regulations. It includes links to resources and features numerous examples from schools across Massachusetts which have already successfully created healthier environments for their students. In addition, ESE will conduct trainings and provide resources for nutrition services personnel and other school staff to help them with implementing the regulations.

School officials are encouraged to communicate with school staff, teachers, food service personnel, school nurses, athletic staff, students, parents, etc., to help them understand their roles in creating healthy school environments. Thank you for your support in this important effort.

Last Updated: November 21, 2011
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