School Food

Removing Soda and Junk Food from California Schools

PHAdvocates Lead Movement to Remove Junk Food & Sodas from Schools


With childhood obesity rates skyrocketing, from 1999-2005 we led the campaign in California to prohibit the sale of soda and junk food in schools. Our work helped launch a national movement, culminating with Michelle Obama championing healthier school food throughout the country.

Data and Research

Our study found 40% of California children were overweight or obese, with the highest rates in communities of color. The epidemic was found in every state legislative district.

Media Advocacy

Our efforts attracted massive media coverage about the growing childhood obesity epidemic, including calls from spokespeople throughout the state to remove soda and junk food from schools.

Community Mobilization

We helped rally support from parents, teachers, and students throughout the state who were upset that schools were contributing to the childhood obesity epidemic.  As local school districts began enacting their own nutrition standards,  local progress built statewide momentum.

Partnership Building

We rallied support from hundreds of health and social justice organizations, parents, schools, insurance companies, and unions from all over California.

Policymaker Education

Our widely circulated fact sheets showcased childhood obesity rates for each state legislative district.  Constituents used them when visited, called, and wrote letters holding their representatives accountable for getting schools out of the soda and junk food business.

Policy Changes

Over a six-year period (1999-2006), our efforts led to enactment of four major pieces of state legislation:

  • Define and pilot test the nation's first school nutrition standards (SB 19, 2001).
  • Ban the sale of sugary drinks in elementary and middle schools (SB 677, 2003).
  • Ban the sale of sugary drinks in high schools (SB 965, 2005).
  • Ban the sale of junk food in K-12 schools (SB 12, 2005).


Success in California encouraged dozens of other states to replicate our model.

Michelle Obama then championed the Healthy and Hunger-Free Kids Act in 2010, establishing nutrition standards for all foods and beverages sold in schools nationwide.

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Detailed case study is in progress. Check back soon to explore further.