Four state polls from Alabama, Michigan, Minnesota and North Dakota released just this month confirm parents’ and voters’ overwhelming support for strong nutrition standards for school foods. Conducted by the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project, a collaboration of the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, these state polls are part of a larger series released this year. Other states in the series include California, Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and South Carolina. These polls also join the nationwide poll conducted by Pew last year which reflected strong support among parents of K-12 students across the United States.
While exact percentages varied state by state, all four state polls showed, overall, that at least 7 out of 10 voters favor requiring public schools to meet the national standards for school meals. Furthermore, nearly all voters agreed that serving nutritious foods is important to ensure that children are prepared to learn and do their best. Virtually all voters across the four states also agreed that schools should provide a serving of fruits and vegetables at every meal, while at least 7 out of 10 said whole-grain foods should be provided and the amount of salt should be limited.
In addition to the nutrition standards for school lunches and breakfasts, voters also voiced support for all foods and drinks sold separately. Specifically, the data showed that the majority of voters backed the complementary “Smart Snacks in School” rule, which applies to items sold in vending machines, at snack bars, and on a la carte cafeteria menus. This rule, which took effect at the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year, sets limits on the fat, salt, sugar and calories in these foods and beverages, while leaving to state leaders the decision of whether to create exemption policies for school fundraisers that do not meet nutrition standards.
Since the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act became law in December 2010, children across America have gained access to healthier food options at breakfast, lunch, and throughout the school day. In fact, 95 percent of states are meeting the national requirements for school meals. These new polls follow that same trend, with nearly all schools in each state meeting the healthier requirements.
Still, despite the progress that has been made nationwide, Congress has been debating whether to reauthorize the law this year. The results from these polls, however, communicate not only that childhood obesity is a major concern for Americans but that the availability of healthy school foods is important to students’ well-being and their ability to learn.
To take a closer look at the poll results and see The Pew Charitable Trust’s full report, click here.