One of the key arguments marshaled by opponents of the current school meal standards is that kids just don’t like healthier the food, resulting in decreased participation and lost revenue. But a new Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-backed study, published in today in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, may suggest otherwise.
Researchers looked at eleven Massachusetts school districts from 2011 to 2014, which was one year before and two years after improved standards for both meals and snacks took effect in that state. (Massachusetts implemented its own healthier snack standards in 2012, two years before similar federal standards – the “Smart Snacks” rules – took effect nationwide.) Of those eleven districts, seven provided full financial data for the entire period studied.
The upshot: after an initial decline in revenue in the first year of implementation, food service revenues fully rebounded in the second year. Moreover, participation in the school meal actually went up for kids in the reduced price category, while there was no change in participation among those getting free meals or paying full price.
Juliana F.W. Cohen, ScD, ScM, the study’s lead author, concludes: “Our findings suggest that concerns about school revenues or participation in meals programs are not strong arguments for rolling back USDA’s healthier meal and snack standards.”
In other school food news….
Getting Rid of Juice in the Cafeteria to Reduce Kids’ Sugar Load?
I’ve been meaning to share with you this recent U.S. News & World Report piece by Chef Ann Cooper, in which she expresses concern over the high amounts of sugar kids can consume at school (see also my Civil Eats piece, “Why There Is So Much Sugar in Your Kid’s School Breakfast“). Having already dropped flavored milk for this reason, she’s currently pondering whether to pull juice and sparkling juice beverages from Boulder public schools.
Maryland PTAs Pass Healthier School Food Resolution
Late last month, the Montgomery County (Maryland) PTA delegates voted in favor of a resolution, promoted by Real Food For Kids – Montgomery (RFKM), which seeks to greatly improve the school food in that district. The resolution calls for: nutritionally improved a la carte offerings, the removal of sodas (including diet sodas) from vending machines, the implementation of salad bars, more scratch-cooked food, a reduction of sugar in school meals, and a ban on foods containing synthetic dyes.
The resolution is non-binding on the district but is clearly a strong expression of parental opinion. Lindsey Parsons, Executive Director of RFKM, told me the organization believes all of these changes can be implemented in a cost-neutral way, though concerns were expressed at the delegate assembly as to whether or not this is the case.
The district hasn’t yet formally responded to the resolution; I’ll share more on TLT as this story unfolds.
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