Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity

Competitive Foods

Smart Snacks

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 requires standards for the nutritional quality of foods that can be sold to children during the school day.  In June 2013 the USDA published an Interim Final Rule outlining the new standards, which are named Smart Snacks in School.  These standards apply to all foods sold in schools during school hours outside of the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program, including vending machines and a la carte items.

Under the Smart Snacks in School standards:

-       Any food sold in schools must meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • A “whole grain-rich” grain product
  • Has a fruit, vegetables, dairy product, or protein food as the first ingredient
  • A combination food that contains at least ¼ cup fruit an/or vegetable
  • Contains 10% daily value of one of the nutrients of public health concern in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans – calcium, potassium, vitamin D, or dietary fiber.

-       Foods must meet several nutrient requirements, including limits on calories, sodium, fat, and sugar.

-       Accompaniments to items sold, such as cream cheese, salad dressing, or butter, must be included in the nutrient profile as part of the food item sold.

-       Beverages sold in schools are limited to water, low fat or fat free milk, 100% fruit and vegetable juice, and other no or low-calorie beverage options. 

The standards are limited to food sold during school hours.  They apply to foods sold as part of fundraisers, however the standards provide an exemption (determined by state agencies) for infrequent fundraisers that do not meet the standards.  More information on Smart Snacks in Schools can be found at:  The complete Final Interim Rule can be found at:

The Alliance for a Healthier Generation has launched the Smart Snacks Product Calculator, a tool that takes the guesswork out of evaluating products based on the new USDA Smart Snacks in School Guidelines. 

Users can enter product information, answer a few questions, and determine whether a snack, side, or entrée item meets the new USDA guidelines. Results from the calculator have been determined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to be accurate in assessing product compliance with the federal requirements for Smart Snacks in School.