More U.S. schools making nutritional improvements

August 28, 2013

A new U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study shows that school districts nationwide are showing improvements in measures related to nutritional policies and physical education. The 2012 School Health Policies and Practices Study (SHPPS) is the largest and most comprehensive survey to assess school health policies.

“Schools play a critical role in the health and well-being of our youth,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden. “Good news for students and parents—more students have access to healthy food, better physical fitness activities through initiatives such as ‘Let’s Move,’ and campuses that are completely tobacco free.”

The percentage of school districts that allowed soft drink companies to advertise soft drinks on school grounds decreased from 46.6% in 2006 to 33.5% in 2012. Between 2006 and 2012, the percentage of districts that required schools to prohibit offering junk food in vending machines increased from 29.8% to 43.4%. During that same time period, the percentage of districts with food procurement contracts that addressed nutritional standards for foods that can be purchased separately from the school breakfast or lunch increased from 55.1% to 73.5%. In addition, between 2000 and 2012, the percentage of districts that made information available to families on the nutrition and caloric content of foods available to students increased from 35.3% to 52.7%.

However, according to an Associated Press article that was released after the CDC report, some schools around the country are dropping out of the healthier new federal lunch program, complaining that so many students are refusing to eat the healthier meals that the cafeterias were losing money. Federal officials say they don’t have exact numbers but have seen isolated reports of schools cutting ties with the $11 billion National School Lunch Program, which reimburses schools for meals served and gives them access to lower-priced food.

In upstate New York, a few districts have quit the program, including the Schenectady-area Burnt Hills Ballston Lake system, whose five lunchrooms ended the year $100,000 in the red.
Near Albany, Voorheesville Superintendent Teresa Thayer Snyder said her district lost $30,000 in the first three months. The program didn’t even make it through the school year after students repeatedly complained about the small portions and apples and pears went from the tray to the trash untouched.

The School Nutrition Association found that 1% of 521 district nutrition directors surveyed over the summer planned to drop out of the program in the 2013–14 school year and about 3% were considering the move.

CDC press release

Associated Press article