A la carte
While school lunches are subject to some regulation, most food items that are sold separately, or a la carte, are not. A la carte foods may include meal-type items such as a single slice of pizza or a single serving of French fries, but more commonly they are snacks, such as ice cream, potato chips, or cookies.
The National School Lunch Program regulates only the few a la carte items that fall into a category called Foods of Minimal Nutritional Value (FMNV). The FMNV classification was developed in the 1970s to identify those foods that provided fewer than 5 percent of the daily value of certain nutrients.
The FMNV list has just four categories: soda water, water ices, chewing gum, and certain candies. Here’s a more detailed definition from the USDA Web site.
CSPI has a quiz you can take to see which foods are considered FMNV.
The original purpose of establishing FMNV was to identify foods that were not contributing to the well-being of our children. Dramatic changes in the food landscape over the last 30 years have rendered the categories of FMNV, in our view, out of date.
We applaud the states and local school districts that have chosen to adopt stricter (i.e., healthier) regulation of a la carte items.