Healthy Kids, Healthy Budget
Researchers at the Dr. Robert C. and Veronica Atkins Center for Weight and Health recently reported that a California pilot program establishing nutrition standards for snack foods and beverages sold at schools actually increased those schools’ food-service revenues.
The 21-month pilot program, Linking Education, Activity, and Food (LEAF), awarded grants to 11 middle schools and five high schools to implement nutrition standards, launch student nutrition and fitness policies, and promote California-grown fresh produce.
The results of the program evaluation are encouraging to researchers looking for ways to combat youth obesity, says lead evaluator Gail Woodward-Lopez.
The researchers found that students purchased fewer snack foods and sweetened beverages and bought more meals, resulting in an increase in total revenues. In addition, students were served 20 percent more fruits and vegetables. “Teachers were especially supportive of the improvements that were made to the foods being offered, and often commented that student behavior improved as a result,” says Lopez.
Pat Crawford, principal investigator of the study and co-director of the Center for Weight and Health, says that the evaluation of the program could not have come at a better time. “School districts and state and federal governments alike are struggling to develop and implement similar regulations,” she says.
However, Crawford cautions that in order to see results, “school meal programs need adequate financial and technical support to upgrade their facilities and cover the higher cost of preparing fresh, healthy meals that appeal to students.”