School nutrition and physical activity policies in Arkansas have improved since the passage of Arkansas Legislative Act 1220. Arkansas Legislative Act 1220 created two mandates for the state’s schools: 1) it required schools to measure student body-mass index and report BMI to parents, and 2) it restricted access to vending machines in elementary schools. Legislative Act 1220 also created a statewide health advisory committee and required school districts to establish their own committees for nutrition and physical activity.
This study summarizes the impact of Legislative Act 1220 based on a five-year evaluation; the findings describe changes in school policies and practices since the legislation.
Researchers from the University of Arkansas conducted annual surveys of school principles and superintendents. Nutrition questions asked about the availability of competitive foods and the types of food served at school-sponsored events. Questions about physical activity assessed exercise options, certification of physical education teachers, and the use of physical activity as punishment.
Five years after the passage of Legislative Act 1220:
- Seventy-three percent of school districts had a specific policy regulating junk food in school stores.
- Schools reduced by 50 percent the number of non-certified physical education teachers.
- There were fewer changes to physical activity policies than to nutrition policies.
Children consume more than one-third of their daily calories in school. Therefore, school is a prime venue for addressing child obesity. This study presents a five-year evaluation of Legislative Act 1220. Arkansas Legislative Act 1220 was a multi-faceted piece of reform. There were significant changes to the school environment in the five years following the legislation.