Healthy foods limited in U.S. schools

Kids in search of a healthy snack at school may be out of luck, and instead have to revert to an unhealthy one instead, says a new report by the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project, a joint initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

“Research shows that the consumption of 110 to 165 calories above recommended amounts per day—roughly the difference between an apple and a bag of chips—may be responsible for rising rates of childhood obesity,” says Jessica Donze Black, director of the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project. “Because many students consume as many as half of their daily calories at school, what children eat during the school day is a critical issue if we want to reverse obesity rates.”

Childhood obesity rates have more than tripled in the past 30 years. The associated costs have been steadily rising, too. A University of Maine study says the medical costs of obesity for children and adolescents in the state could reach $1.2 billion over the next 20 years.

Though many states reduced the availability of low-nutrient, high-calorie snacks such as chocolate, other candy, or full-fat salty chips in secondary schools between 2002 and 2008, progress has since stalled, the report shows. Hundreds of secondary schools sell less-healthy snack foods or beverages. In 36 states, more than a quarter of schools sold them in 2010. In 49 states, fewer than half of secondary schools sold fruits and vegetables in snack venues in 2010.

For the report, the groups reviewed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the types of snack foods and beverages sold in secondary schools via vending machines, school stores, and snack bars.

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