Effects of Changes in Lunch-Time Competitive Foods, Nutrition Practices and Nutrition Policies on Low-Income Middle-School Children's Diets

A boy drinking a carton of milk through a straw.

The diets of lower-income, middle school students in Michigan improved following implementation of school-initiated nutrition practices and policies, and a state-recommended policy.

The Issue:
The School Nutrition Advances Kids (SNAK) project examined the effectiveness of various nutritional interventions on the diets of lower-income middle school students. This two-year study was conducted in Michigan from 2007 to 2010, and included both a modified experimental intervention and a natural experiment.

Key Findings

  • Implementation of both school-initiated nutrition practices and policies and a state-recommended policy resulted in student dietary intake improvement.

  • Schools making 3-6 and 7-14 nutrition practices significantly increased their intake of both fiber and fruit, as compared to schools making 0-2 nutrition practice changes.

  • Schools that introduced mostly healthful foods, including salads, fruits and whole grain snacks, in competitive venues at lunch saw significant dietary improvements among students.

Allowing for school preferences to be considered and a low response rate were limitations of this study. The findings suggest, however, that nutritional quality of children’s diets will increase following implementation of updated federal nutrition standards for school snacks and drinks.

About the Study:

The three different experimental groups consisted of schools that:

  1. Completed an assessment of nutrition education policies and environments using the Healthy School Action Tools (HSAT), and implemented an action plan;
  2. Completed the HSAT, implemented an action plan, and convened a student nutrition action team; and
  3. Completed the HSAT, and implemented an action plan and a Michigan State Board of Education nutrition policy in their cafeteria a la carte lines.

There was also a control group. Schools were recruited using applications for grant funding. Student dietary intake was assessed using the Block Kids FFQ 2004 (ages 8-17). Data from baseline and follow-up survey was gathered from 55 schools with 1,176 students.