Study Shows School Lunches are Healthier – Is it Enough to Impact the Youth Obesity Rate?
|April 4, 2012||Posted by M. P. under Children and Family, Education, Health, Policy, Youth Development||
A follow-up report from Bridging the Gap on student health and fitness shows small improvements in school lunch offerings over the past four years. The report, Improving Children’s Health: National Elementary School Survey Results: School Years 2006–07 through 2009–10. Vol. 2., provides updated results from one of the most comprehensive studies of health-related policies and practices in U.S. elementary schools to date (released in November 2010).
The findings and trends discussed in the paper cover a range of issues related to childhood obesity from 2006–07 to 2009–10, including,
- The availability of healthy food and drink selections increased in schools between the 2006/7 year and the 2009/10 school years, for example – availability of whole grains increased from 15 percent to 21 percent during that time period, availability of low fat milk increased from 21 percent to 34 percent, and the availability of salad and fresh fruit remained stable with 40 percent of public elementary schools offering packaged salads or a salad bar and 33 percent offering fresh fruit
- Sales of lunchtime “extras” such as ice cream, chips and packaged pastries increased significantly, from 42 percent to 52 percent between 2006/7 and 2009/10. The researchers suggest that the increase is due to more elementary schools making these meal supplements (or substitutions) available in the cafeteria.
- There have been very few notable policy changes made to support physical activity in school since the 2006–07 study. There was no statistical change in elementary schools offering intramural or extramural sports during the time period (37 percent in 2006/7 versus 34 in 2009/10).
Communities, educational and child care professionals and parents can work together to slow the trend of childhood obesity by making small but consistent changes, such as monitoring the availability and nutritional value of snacks and drinks for students, increasing outdoor recreation activities, and keeping parks and neighborhood playgrounds well kept and safe for children and families to use regularly.
Report Citation: Turner L, Chaloupka FJ and Sandoval A. School Policies and Practices for Improving Children’s Health: National Elementary School Survey Results: School Years 2006–07 through 2009–10. Vol. 2. Chicago, IL: Bridging the Gap Program, Health Policy Center, Institute for Health Research and Policy, University of Illinois at Chicago, 2012. www.bridgingthegapresearch.org.