The School Food Environment and Student Body Mass Index and Food Consumption

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation invests in research aimed at halting the rise in childhood obesity. This study, part of a supplement focusing on childhood obesity research, found that U.S. middle and high schools reduced availability of regular-sugar/fat foods from 2004-2007.

In recent years, several important initiatives have addressed the availability of unhealthy foods in U.S. schools. This study set out to determine whether there has been a concurrent change in the types of foods available in middle and high schools. Of further interest were any possible associations between food availability, student eating habits and weight status. The study employed data from two linked health studies, Monitoring the Future (MTF) and the Youth, Education and Society (YES) study. The studies surveyed 78,442 students for the three years of interest.

Key Findings:

  • After 2004 there were significant declines in the availability of regular-sugar/fat food items for students at both middle and high schools.
  • The availability of reduced-fat items was associated with decreased student overweight, but not decreased obesity.

U.S. high school and middle school students consume more than a quarter of their daily energy at school. This study showed a decrease in regular-sugar/fat foods coinciding with several major school food environment initiatives.