PreventObesity.net Leaders are no strangers to the fight over school meals. This network sent regulators nearly 200,000 comments in support of requiring school meals to align with national dietary guidelines. Those new regulations went into effect in the fall of 2012. Now we have evidence that the students the rules directly impact are pleased with the change.
The first national studies on student opinion of the healthier school meals were released Monday in the journal Childhood Obesity. They report that students are generally happy with their healthier school meals. About half of the school principals, food service providers and other school leaders who responded to a national survey reported that while some students complained at first, after just six months students were generally happy and were not wasting more food than they were previously.
“This significant study reinforces what we have known all along: America’s school lunch program works,” Nancy Brown, CEO for the American Heart Association said.
The survey took place just six months after the healthier school meals guidelines went into effect nationwide, in the spring of 2013. Research was conducted by Bridging the Gap, a research program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which funded the study.
Among the findings, researchers report that:
- Students of all ages were happy with the healthy meals. Respondents said 70 percent of elementary school students, 70 percent of middle school students and 63 of high schools students “generally seem to like the new school lunch.”
- Students complained at first, but then accepted the changes. Fifty-six percent of public elementary schools complained at first, but about two-thirds reported that only a few students were complaining just six months later.
- Results varied based on school location and the students’ socioeconomic status.
○ Rural schools reported more student complaints, decreased student participation and increased plate waste compared to respondents from urban and suburban schools.
○ Schools with two-thirds or more of student populations receiving free and reduced-priced lunches reported higher participation rates and less waste compared with other schools.
In addition, 65 percent of elementary schools reported no overall change in the number of students purchasing lunch. Fifty-nine percent of schools said students were not throwing away more food than they were previously.
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