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Keywords:

  • chronic diseases;
  • health policy;
  • nutrition and diet;
  • school food service

BACKGROUND: Competitive foods and beverages are available on most US school campuses. States and school districts are adopting nutrition standards to regulate these products, but few studies have reported on the extent to which schools are able to adhere to competitive regulations. The purpose of this study was to describe the extent to which schools in disadvantaged communities were able to implement California competitive food and beverage standards.

METHODS: Data on the competitive foods (n = 1019) and beverages (n = 572) offered for sale on 19 school campuses were collected in 2005 and 2008. Descriptive statistics were generated on overall adherence rates to school nutrition standards and adherence rates by venue and school level. Logistic regression models tested predictors of adherence by continuous and categorical variables (eg, venue, item selling price).

RESULTS: Data show an increase from 2005 to 2008 in average adherence to the California standards. Several predictors had statistically significant associations with adherence or nonadherence. Adherence was higher for competitive foods sold in school stores than foods sold in vending machines. Higher selling price was associated with lower adherence. Competitive foods classified as entrees were more likely to adhere than snack items, and larger total size (in fluid ounces) beverages were associated with higher adherence.

CONCLUSIONS: Schools have begun to implement competitive food and beverage policies. However, school environments, particularly in secondary schools, are not 100% compliant with school nutrition standards. These findings can inform policymakers and school officials about the feasibility of implementing competitive food standards in schools.