School Food Environments and Policies in US Public Schools

This comprehensive examination of school food environments and policies found that as grade levels increase, food environments become less healthy.

What researchers found: The school food environment is less healthy in higher grades than in elementary grades. Vending machines and a la carte sales are more likely to exist in high schools than elementary schools. The percentage of national school lunch program (NSLP) participants and the percentage of racial/ethnic minorities were not independently associated with school food environments.

Why we chose this publication: Since competitive foods and beverages in U.S. schools are not governed by federal regulations, this study provides evidence that decreasing the availability of low-nutrient, energy dense foods and beverages in secondary schools may be one population-based approach to improve the diets and weight of American youth.

What researchers studied: In 2005, a sample of U.S. public schools (n=395) participating in the NSLP completed the third School Nutrition and Dietary Assessment. School principals and food service personnel completed questionnaires on school food environments and policies, and higher summary scores were given to schools with wellness policies, less availability of vending and a la carte items, and healthier school lunch menus.

Publication information:
"School Food Environments and Policies in US Public Schools"

Finkelstein DM, Hill EL, Whitaker RC
Pediatrics, 122: e251–e259, July 2008.