Guidelines in action


An increasing number of cities, state and federal agencies, and public and private worksites are adopting healthy food service guidelines. Different government entities, from state parks to the US Army, have taken unique approaches to developing and adopting guidelines. The following examples come from jurisdictions across the Unites States and represent a variety of environments, food and beverage services, contracts, and policies.

They show how different government agencies at every level have developed and implemented healthy food service guidelines to provide healthier foods and beverages. Every jurisdiction featured here has implemented nutrition standards, but each differs in whether or how it addresses environmentally responsible practices or sustainability. 

This is just a handful of examples. Many jurisdictions are doing innovative work related to improving their food and beverage offerings.

Federal examples

Hubert H. Humphrey Building Cafeteria. In 2010, this cafeteria at the US Department of Health and Human Services became the first federal food service operation to incorporate the Health and Sustainability Guidelines for Federal Concessions and Vending Operations by issuing an RFP and then a contract that included the guidelines.

The vendor at this cafeteria complied with the standards included the guidelines by establishing a healthier choice menu program, promotions for healthier options, nutrition information, refillable coffee and water container programs, and composting. On average, monthly cafeteria sales increased by 34% over the same time period the year before the guidelines were implemented.

US National Park Service Concessions. The US National Park Service Healthy and Sustainable Food Program was launched in 2013 and requires parks to include standards that focus on health and sustainability in new vendor contracts. For existing contracts, the healthy food policy emphasizes collaboration, encouraging parks and vendors to adopt the guidelines voluntarily. The standards include rules on ingredients, food preparation, and consumer education. 

US Army Meals. The US Army established a standard for feeding soldiers as part of the Soldier Fueling Initiative. This standard encompasses Department of Defense nutrition standards, nutrition education, menu development, product selection, and preparation and service specifications. The goal of the standard is to make meals for soldiers appealing and nutritious.

State examples

Massachusetts Executive Order. The governor of Massachusetts issued Executive Order 509 in 2009, establishing the Massachusetts State Agency Food Standards for food purchased and served by state agencies. These standards, which align with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, are part of the Mass in Motion statewide wellness initiative. Food service for employees is not included under Executive Order 509, so the state encourages agencies to follow the Healthy Meeting and Event Guide. This guide provides recommendations for healthy meeting planning, including suggestions for healthier food offerings.

Delaware State Parks “Munch Better” Policy. In 2010, Delaware State Parks implemented a procurement policy at state parks. Nemours Health & Prevention Services worked with the Delaware State Parks to categorize all food items sold from vending machines and concession stands as either “Go,” “Slow,” or “Whoa.” “Go” foods (eg, produce and whole grains) are the healthiest options for the calories they contain; “Slow” foods (eg, diet iced tea, baked chips, nuts) contain added sugar or fat that makes them more caloric; and “Whoa” foods (eg, candy bars, sugared soda) have the most sugar and fat and are the least healthy. The Healthy Concessions Guide and the Healthy Vending Guide were used for product selection.

Washington Executive Order. In 2013, the governor of Washington issued Executive Order 13-06, Improving the Health and Productivity of State Employees and Access to Healthy Foods in State Facilities. EO 13-06 required all state agencies in the executive branch to implement food and beverage policies consistent with the Washington State Healthy Nutrition Guidelines, based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. EO 13-06 affects 39 executive branch state agencies.

The guidelines affect food served or sold in cafeterias, in vending machines, at on-site retail establishments, at meetings or events, and through institutional food service. Implementation of the guidelines began on July 1, 2014, with full implementation to be achieved by December 31, 2016. Ensuring compliance with EO 13-06 is the responsibility of the State Employee Health and Wellness Steering Committee, staffed in part by the Washington State Department of Health.

Local examples

Los Angeles Healthy Food Promotion. In 2011, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors passed a motion: Healthy Food Promotion in Los Angeles County Food Service Contracts. The motion created a process for the public health department to emphasize healthier options in new and existing RFPs and contracts. The policy covers a wide variety of departments and institutions in LA County. Center TRT developed an evaluation logic model and evaluation plan for a policy modeled after LA County’s policy.

New York City Food Standards. In 2008, the mayor of New York City issued Executive Order 122 to establish the New York City Food Standards for food procured by city agencies or agency contractors. These standards address (1) purchased food; (2) meals and snacks; (3) agency and population-specific standards; and (4) sustainability recommendations. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene also created a Healthy Heart Program Hospital Toolkit, which includes implementation guides and standards for hospitals to improve the options in vending machines, cafeterias, cafés, and patient meals.

Chicago Park District Vending Standards. The Chicago Park District Vending Standards represent a combination of vending standards from Fit Pick, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, and the American Heart Association. The standards, which the Chicago Park District incorporated into both an RFP and a contract in 2011, set limits on sodium, sugar, fat, and calories, while promoting healthier fat sources. The contract states that 100% of snacks vended on park district property must meet these nutrition standards. Lessons learned from the development of the standards were later used to issue an RFP for healthier beverage vending in 2013.