In response to dramatic and increasing national trends of childhood obesity, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) retained Pyramid Communications to identify opportunities for increasing children's physical activity and healthy eating in schools nationwide. Between November 2002 and May 2003, information was gathered through a national opinion poll of 500 teachers and 800 parents; reviews of federal-, state- and district-level policies and regulations; interviews with policy-makers and advocates; and reviews of 21 in-school and 20 after-school physical activity and nutrition programs. The study also identified and reviewed schools and school districts that were implementing innovative programs or policies. Findings revealed that a majority of public schools offer soft drinks in vending machines, only 21 percent offer a salad bar at least once a week, and fewer than 10 percent of schools provide daily physical education (P.E.) or its equivalent for the entire school year for students in all grades. Polls showed that teachers and parents overwhelmingly support daily P.E. and access to healthy foods. The study also showed that physical activity- and nutrition-related policies at local, state and federal levels are linked but largely ineffectual due to lack of enforcement.
Based on its findings, Pyramid Communications provides recommendations and strategies for improving physical activity and healthy eating in schools and encourages more energetic leadership to create environments for children that foster healthy lifelong habits.