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In 2012, Massachusetts enacted school competitive food and beverage standards similar to national Smart Snacks. These standards aim to improve the nutritional quality of competitive snacks. It was previously demonstrated that a majority of foods and beverages were compliant with the standards, but it was unknown whether food manufacturers reformulated products in response to the standards. The present study assessed whether products were reformulated after standards were implemented; the availability of reformulated products outside schools; and whether compliance with the standards improved the nutrient composition of competitive snacks.
An observational cohort study documenting all competitive snacks sold before (2012) and after (2013 and 2014) the standards were implemented.
The sample included thirty-six school districts with both a middle and high school.
After 2012, energy, saturated fat, Na and sugar decreased and fibre increased among all competitive foods. By 2013, 8 % of foods were reformulated, as were an additional 9 % by 2014. Nearly 15 % of reformulated foods were look-alike products that could not be purchased at supermarkets. Energy and Na in beverages decreased after 2012, in part facilitated by smaller package sizes.
Massachusetts’ law was effective in improving the nutritional content of snacks and product reformulation helped schools adhere to the law. This suggests fully implementing Smart Snacks standards may similarly improve the foods available in schools nationally. However, only some healthier reformulated foods were available outside schools.
In autumn 2012, Massachusetts schools implemented comprehensive competitive food and beverage standards similar to the US Department of Agriculture’s Smart Snacks in School standards. We explored major themes raised by food-service directors (FSD) regarding their school-district-wide implementation of the standards.
For this qualitative study, part of a larger mixed-methods study, compliance was measured via direct observation of foods and beverages during school site visits in spring 2013 and 2014, calculated to ascertain the percentage of compliant products available to students. Semi-structured interviews with school FSD conducted in each year were analysed for major implementation themes; those raised by more than two-thirds of participating school districts were explored in relationship to compliance.
Massachusetts school districts (2013: n 26; 2014: n 21).
Data collected from FSD.
Seven major themes were raised by more than two-thirds of participating school districts (range 69–100 %): taking measures for successful transition; communicating with vendors/manufacturers; using tools to identify compliant foods and beverages; receiving support from leadership; grappling with issues not covered by the law; anticipating changes in sales of competitive foods and beverages; and anticipating changes in sales of school meals. Each theme was mentioned by the majority of more-compliant school districts (65–81 %), with themes being raised more frequently after the second year of implementation (range increase 4–14 %).
FSD in more-compliant districts were more likely to talk about themes than those in less-compliant districts. Identified themes suggest best-practice recommendations likely useful for school districts implementing the final Smart Snacks in School standards, effective July 2016.
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