There’s some new evidence that all the efforts to cajole kids into trading chips and candy for carrot sticks and yogurt really do work.
A widely publicized new study shows that school-based nutrition programs in Philadelphia helped many of their students avoid obesity and make better food choices.
The schools that implemented a broad-based plan to cut back on high-sugar and high-fat foods, coupled with nutrition education, found that fewer students became overweight. In the end, about 7 percent of students who’d taken part in the program had significant weight problems, compared to about 15 percent of students at the schools in the control group.
The study’s lead author, Gary D. Foster, called the findings “a dramatic effect,” although he acknowledged that there were still too many overweight children. The study was published this week in the April edition of Pediatrics. The researchers followed about 1,400 students, grades four through six, in 10 Philadelphia schools for two years. More than half the students were eligible for free or reduced-priced lunches.
First, the schools replaced sodas with milk, juice, or water, and eliminated candy. Strict limits were set on the fat and sugar content of foods, and snack portions were downsized. The students were given rewards, such as raffle tickets for prizes, for choosing healthy options and were encouraged to exercise. And students and teachers spent many hours learning about nutrition and better habits.
While this report highlights the obesity problem and need for school-based interventions, any school dietician will attest to another looming problem: Food is getting more expensive, particularly the fresh fruits and veggies and whole grains that are staples of a nutrition program.
If your district is looking to increase its nutritional offerings or just better manage its food services division, stay tuned for ASBJ’s June issue, which will examine these and other issues facing school cafeterias.
Joetta Sack-Min, Associate Editor