Bipartisan Agreement Likely Means USDA Will Set Nutrition Standards for Vending in Schools

Statement of CSPI Nutrition Policy Director Margo G. Wootan


In an otherwise contentious time in Washington, it's good to know that Republicans and Democrats can come together for the sake of child nutrition and health. The agreement that Chairman Blanche Lincoln and Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss have forged, along with the support of industry leadersand health groups, will allow the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ensure that the federal investment in healthy school meals isn't undermined by foods that harm kids' health.

USDA is currently updating the school meal standards; now Congress is poised to allow USDA to take care of the rest of school foods. The current national nutrition standards for foods sold out of school vending machines and a la carte lines in cafeterias are 30 years out of date and no longer make sense. They don't address key nutrition problems like calories, fats, salt, and sugar.

USDA needs to update its nutrition standards for school foods sold outside of meals, and apply those standards to the whole campus, the whole school day. We're pleased that industry leaders like Mars, Nestlé, Coke, and Pepsi see the need for this as well.

There has been an absolute sea change when it comes to parents' expectations for the foods that are available in schools. Many cities, states, and companies have already begun to improve the nutritional quality of foods they sell in school. However, two-thirds of states still have weak or no school nutrition standards. When Congress passes the child nutrition reauthorization bill, it will help get all junk food out of every school once and for all. 

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Contact Jeff Cronin (jcronin[at] or Ariana Stone (astone[at]