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School Meal Programs: Competitive Foods Are Widely Available and Generate Substantial Revenues for Schools

GAO-05-563 Published: Aug 08, 2005. Publicly Released: Sep 07, 2005.
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Recent increases in child obesity have sparked concerns about competitive foods--foods sold to students at school that are not part of federally reimbursable school meals. The nutritional value of these foods is largely unregulated, and students can often purchase these foods in addition to or instead of school meals. In our April 2004 report on competitive foods (GAO-04-673), we reported that several states had enacted competitive food policies that were more restrictive than federal regulations. However, these policies differed widely in the type and extent of restrictions. In addition, it was unclear how and to what extent states were monitoring compliance with these policies. GAO was also asked to provide a national picture of competitive foods in schools, as well as strategies that districts and schools themselves are taking to limit the availability of less nutritious competitive foods. This report provides information from two nationally representative surveys about the prevalence of competitive foods in schools, competitive foods restrictions and groups involved in their sale, and the amounts and uses of revenue generated from the sale of competitive foods. It also provides information about strategies schools have used to limit the availability of less nutritious competitive foods, based on visits to a total of six school districts in California, Connecticut, Mississippi, Missouri, and South Carolina.

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CompetitionData collectionElementary schoolsFood programs for childrenFood servicesNutrition researchNutrition surveysSchool districtsSecondary schoolsSchools