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Smart Snacks - Fundraisers

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA) requires USDA to establish nutrition standards for all foods sold to students on the school campus during the school day. This includes the school lunch and breakfast programs as well as any food sold a la carte, through vending machines or fundraisers. The new Smart Snack nutrition standards will affect many groups and organizations on the school campus and in the school community, including the food service department and school groups and organizations that rely on food items for fund raising purposes. This interim final rule, also known as the “Smart Snacks” rule, is effective on July 1, 2014. Read the Smart Snack nutrition standards here.

What do the standards require?

In order for food, snacks, or beverages to be sold to students during the school day, the product must meet certain nutritional requirements for calories, sugar, sodium, and fat. For beverages, there are also volume requirements as well as caffeine restrictions. The USDA has created two informative flyers summarizing this topic. Read Smart Snacks in Schools – Fundraisers. Read flyer, All Foods Sold in Schools Smart Snacks Standards.

Who does this affect?

The new requirements affect any group or organization who sells food items to students at school during the school day. This could mean the organization in charge of the school store, vending machines and special fundraisers. It could also mean teachers who collect donations for a special pizza party in the classroom. Keep in mind, there is no restriction on fundraisers during the school day that meet the criteria of the Smart Snack nutrition standards.

What options are there?

We fully understand the diversity of schools across Minnesota and the concerns over revenue loss from eliminating less healthy food items from the school campus. That’s why we are committed to providing resources to assist schools in this transition year. Many schools across the state have already successfully eliminated less healthy items from school stores and vending machines, and have prohibited high sodium, sugar and fat food item fundraisers. Through the Statewide Health Improvement Program and many other initiatives, local school districts have already placed into policy guidelines on healthy fundraising and are having success. Learn more about what other schools are doing.

We know that many districts and charter schools utilize fundraisers to support school programming and activities, and may already have signed contracts for SY 2014-15. The HHFKA does allow state agencies the discretion and flexibility to establish a procedure by which a Local Educational Agency (LEA) may request approval for a case-by-case exemption from Smart Snack fundraising standards. The department is in the process of developing a “special circumstances” fundraiser exemption for use in limited situation. Applications will be available in early June.

The department will be involved in student engagement activities over the summer to identify solutions and best practices in making a smooth transition. Involving students is a great way to bring about acceptance.

Culinary Arts Programs

The Smart Snacks nutrition standards have no impact on the culinary education programs’ curriculum in schools, nor do they have any impact on foods sold to adults at any time or to students outside of the school day. However, nutrition standards do apply to all foods sold to students on the school campus during the school day, including food prepared and/or sold by culinary education programs. It may take time to modify procedures if your school sells food prepared by culinary education programs to students. We encourage you to use the fundraising exemption if necessary.

Input from Stakeholders

The HHFKA provides states with an option for allowing a number of annual exemptions at all schools. The department hosted several opportunities to garner feedback from stakeholders. Representatives from the Minnesota School Nutrition Association, Minnesota School Boards Association, Minnesota Elementary Principals Association, Minnesota Association of Business Officials and Minnesota School Administrators Association and the Minnesota Parent Teacher Association all weighed in on whether annual exemptions should be allowed. It was unanimous that Minnesota schools should work aggressively towards elimination of “junk food” snacks and fundraisers sold to students during the school day.

Administration Challenges

We know that many school administrators may not be fully aware of the number of fundraisers that are taking place in schools. The 2014-15 school year is a time to “take stock” and identify the groups or organizations that are holding food fundraisers. Teachers should be encouraged to talk about healthy eating to students and help identify what fundraising substitutions or changes can be made. Nutrition curriculums can include activities about healthy snacking and moderation.

Monitoring Exempted Fundraisers

The school nutrition service is required to maintain records such as nutrition labels and product specifications, for competitive foods sold under the nonprofit school food service account. It is the district or charter school’s responsibility to maintain records for all other competitive food sales occurring on the school campus during the school day. The state agency will monitor compliance with standards through a review of local educational agency records during the regularly scheduled administrative review process.


Minnesota cares about our kids. We want to ensure that students have the best environment in which to learn, grow and thrive. Healthy kids are smarter kids. Let’s ensure a healthy school environment all around. We encourage all school staff to work towards implementing these meaningful standards that complement the healthier school meals introduced last fall and make the healthy choice, the easy choice for students across the school community. We can do this by encouraging snacks that contain whole grains, low-fat dairy, fruits, vegetables or protein as their main ingredients, and placing sensible limits on sugar, fat and salt. We can positively impact all Minnesota students by ensuring that they are offered healthy foods at school.

Questions and Answers – School Fundraisers

Q: When does this take effect?

A: The Smart Snack rules go into effect July 1, 2014.

Q: What does “school day” mean?

A: School day is defined as midnight before the start to 30 minutes after the end of the official school day.

Q: What does “school campus” mean?

A: All areas under jurisdiction of the school that are accessible to students during the school day.

Q: Does this apply to food sold to adults?

A: No. The Smart Snacks standards are for food sold to students.

Q: How do the new standards affect fundraising by school groups?

A: USDA recognizes that revenues from school stores, vending machines and occasional fundraisers can play an important role in supporting student clubs, parent teacher organizations and booster groups. All foods that meet the standards can be sold during fundraisers during school hours. The standards do not apply to items sold during non-school hours, weekends or off-campus fundraising events, such as concessions during sporting events and school plays.

Q: What are some allowable food items students can sell? Is there a list?

A: Yes! We have a list of potential food and non-food items that can be sold in vending machines, school stores and for fundraising purposes. If you have a special food item you’d like to consider, use the “Smart Snacks Product Calculator” on the Alliance for a Healthier Generation website, to see if it is an acceptable product.

Q: What about birthday treats or other special events?

A. USDA has no role in regulating foods brought from home. Time honored traditions like treats for birthdays or foods at an afterschool sporting event are not subject to these standards.

Q: Do vending machines fall into this requirement?

A: Yes. Vending machines and school stores would be required to follow Smart Snack standards.

Q: So, what’s in and what’s out?

A: What’s in: peanuts, light popcorn, low-fat chips, granola bars, fruit cup, vegetables, no-calorie flavored water. What’s out: candy, cookies, cake, doughnuts, energy bars, regular soda.

Q: What about lost revenue?

A: According to USDA research more than half of all schools in the country do not allow fundraisers that sell sweet or salty foods. Currently, over 39 states have state issued competitive food nutritional standards in place. Studies have shown that school fundraising can be healthy and profitable.

Q: What is considered a fundraiser?

A: USDA considers a fundraiser to be an event that includes any activity during which currency, tokens, or tickets, etc. are exchanged for the sale/purchase of a product in support of the school or school-related activity. For example, giving away food, but suggesting a donation would be considered a fundraiser. Another example may include a vending machine when profits are used to support a school-sponsored club or activity such as the school band or football team.

Q: How do I know if my food item meets Smart Snack nutrient standards?

A: The Alliance for a Healthier Generation has developed an online Smart Snacks Product Calculator. USDA has thoroughly reviewed this tool and has determined it to be accurate in assessing food product compliance.

Q: What can schools sell instead of candy?

A: There are many options for healthy fundraising (see resource list below). Many of your current sweet/salty food items can be replaced with more healthy food options. Consider non-food fundraisers is another way of raising important revenue. The department is currently developing an extensive list of snack items that meet Smart Snack regulations. The list will be ready mid-summer.

Resources to assist in healthy fundraising:

Visit the Alliance for a Healthier Generation website for creative ideas on how to engage the community and provide large-scale healthy fundraising options.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest developed a helpful resource to dispel myths that schools need to sell junk food to raise money. It includes contact information for companies that offer healthy fundraising options. Download Sweet Deals: School Fundraising Can Be Healthy and Profitable.

Action for Healthy Kids - Guide to Healthy Fundraising.

Center for Science in the Public Interest - Healthy Fundraising in Schools Webinar.

USDA - Use Fundraising Activities and Rewards to Support Student Health.

Additional information about Smart Snacks

Read the March 5, 2014 USDA memo for additional “questions and answers” about Smart Snacks.