National school food policies have potential to improve health now and later

National school food policies have potential to improve health now and later

BOSTON (July 9, 2018)—Providing free fruits and vegetables and limiting sugary drinks in schools could have positive health effects in both the short- and long-term, finds a new Food-PRICE study led by researchers from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.

Childhood is a key time to develop attitudes toward food and nutrition and potentially life-long eating habits. School food policies seek to provide and/or encourage healthy food choices during the school day, from offering students free fruits and vegetables outside of standard school meals to outlining limitations on the availability, portion sizes, or sales of sugary drinks.

“Standards such as Smart Snacks in School have largely eliminated sugary drinks in U.S. public schools, but potential effects on obesity in children or long-term health are not known. Also, elementary schools in low-income neighborhoods often have free fresh fruits and vegetables programs, but these have not been expanded to other elementary, middle, or high schools; and potential long-term health effects have not been evaluated,” said senior author Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D., Dr.P.H., dean of the Friedman School.

The study, published in PLOS ONE on July 6, used a comparative risk assessment model to estimate the impact that implementing national food policies in U.S. elementary, middle and high schools could have on dietary intake and body mass index (BMI) in children and what cardiometabolic disease outcomes might be influenced in adulthood.

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