Impact of Nutrition Standards on Competitive Food Quality in Massachusetts Middle and High Schools

Document Type

Article - Merrimack Access Only

Publication Title

American Journal of Public Health

Publication Date


Abstract/ Summary

Objectives. To examine changes in competitive foods (items sold in a la carte lines, ` vending machines, and school stores that “compete” with school meals) in Massachusetts middle and high schools before and after implementation of a statewide nutrition law in 2012.

Methods. We photographed n = 10 782 competitive foods and beverages in 36 Massachusetts school districts and 7 control state districts to determine availability and compliance with the law at baseline (2012), 1 year (2013), and 2 years (2014) after the policy (overall enrollment: 71 202 students). We examined availability and compliance trends over time.

Results. By 2014, 60% of competitive foods and 79% of competitive beverages were compliant. Multilevel models showed an absolute 46.2% increase for foods (95% con- fidence interval = 36.2, 56.3) and 46.8% increase for beverages (95% confidence interval = 39.2, 54.4) in schools’ alignment with updated standards from 2012 to 2014.

Conclusions. The law’s implementation resulted in major improvements in the availability and nutritional quality of competitive foods and beverages, but schools did not reach 100% compliance. This law closely mirrors US Department of Agriculture Smart Snacks in School standards, suggesting that complying with strict nutrition standards is feasible, and schools may experience challenges and improvements over time.