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USDA Snack Food and Beverage Standards: How Big of a Stretch for the States?

Chriqui JF, Piekarz E and Chaloupka FJ. Childhood Obesity, 2014; 10(3):234-240.

Background: The USDA snack food and beverage standards take effect in school year (SY) 2014–2015. Although the USDA standards will provide nationwide requirements, concerns exist about compliance. This study examined whether existing state laws are aligned with the USDA standards to determine whether some states may be better positioned to facilitate compliance.

Methods: Codified state statutory and regulatory laws effective for SY 2012–2013 for each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia were identified through Boolean keyword searches using the Westlaw and LexisNexis databases. Laws were analyzed for alignment with 18 snack food and beverage provisions contained within the USDA standards.

Results: Thirty-eight states had snack food and beverage standards; 33 states’ laws exceeded restrictions on foods of minimal nutritional value. Of the 33 states, no states’ laws fully met the USDA’s standards, 16 states’ laws fully met and 10 states’ laws partially met at least one USDA provision, and seven states’ laws met no USDA provisions. One state’s law met 9 of 18 provisions. On average, states met 4 of 18 provisions. States were more likely to meet individual USDA beverage than snack provisions.

Conclusions: Implementation and compliance with the USDA standards may be facilitated in states with laws already containing provisions aligned with the USDA standards and may be more difficult in states with fewer or no provisions in alignment, suggesting possible geographic areas for the USDA to target with technical assistance and training efforts and for advocates to work in to facilitate compliance.

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