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Healthier Meal Standards Making a Difference in Schools


A new study is showing that higher health standards for school lunches is improving children’s health.

The study, “Weight Status Among Adolescents in States That Govern Competitive Food Nutrition Content,” published online Aug. 13, examines whether states that govern nutrition content of foods and beverages experience lower adolescent weight gain than those who do not. Study authors linked height and weight data from 6,300 students in 40 states with nutrition law ratings from the National Cancer Institute’s Classification of Laws Associated with School Students database.

They found students gained less weight from fifth to eighth grade if they lived in states with strong laws for competitive food standards that were required, specific, and consistent across grade levels. Students were also less likely to remain overweight or obese over time if they lived in states with strong laws.

The study also revealed consistency of laws was as important as the laws themselves. Although many states are developing stronger nutrition policies for competitive foods, some states are primarily targeting elementary schools without reinforcing the policies at higher grade levels.

In states that had weaker laws for middle schools than elementary schools, average weight gain was equal compared to states that had no competitive food laws. Study authors conclude that these results have important implications for federal and state policies targeting childhood obesity, particularly as nationwide competitive food standards are being developed by the United States Department of Agriculture as part of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

Source: the Cypress Creek Mirror