A new survey from The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the American Heart Association indicate that a vast majority of parents support the United States Department of Agriculture’s school meal and “Smart Snacks in School” nutrition standards.
Guidelines for the types of food sold in lunchrooms have been in effect since 2011. The Smart Snacks in School standards, which went into effect nationally on July 1, 2014, sets guidelines for how much fat, salt and calories are present in food and drinks sold in other areas of the school: vending machines, a la carte lines and school stores.
“Smart snacks have to be one of many strategies implemented to encourage healthy eating and lifestyle behaviors in school children in order to ensure healthy adults,” says Dr. Paul Douglass, a cardiologist and President of Metropolitan Atlanta Cardiology Consultants in Atlanta, Georgia.
In Georgia, 74 percent of parents are in favor of the new standards: 54 percent strongly support them and 72 percent also favor the guidelines extending to foods sold in school stores, vending machines and a la carte lines—the Smart Snacks in School standards. Nationally, 72 percent of parents favor standards for school meals. Of the 72 percent of parents who support the new standards, 50 percent strongly favor them.
Additionally, 75 percent of parents agree that salt should be limited. “Controlling sugar, salt and fat content in the snacks provided in school is essential in teaching healthy lifestyle behaviors and controlling the childhood obesity epidemic,” Dr. Douglass says.
Another 93 percent agree that schools should include a serving of fruits or vegetables with every meal, while 91 percent say the same about water: these percentages are slightly higher than the national rates.
While support for the standards remains high across all races, political views and income levels, the percentages of parents who favor the standards did seem to vary slightly between groups:
- Overall, 68 percent of White parents approve of school meal standards, compared to 91 percent of African-Americans. In Georgia specifically, the number of White parents who support the standards is slightly higher at 70 percent, while the number of African-Americans who support them is slightly lower, at 90 percent.
- Nationally, 84 percent of Democrats, 71 percent of Independents and 56 percent of Republicans favor the standards. In Georgia, 85 percent of Democrats, 59 percent of Independents and 69 percent of Republicans favor the standards.
- In Georgia, 78 percent of mothers and 69 percent of fathers support the standards.
- 80 percent of lower-income parents supported the standards in Georgia, compared with 73 percent of middle-income parents and 74 percent of upper-income parents.
In addition to questions about their support of school food guidelines, parents were also asked broad questions about child health in the United States. 80 percent of parents are concerned with the state of children’s health, while 74 percent are specifically concerned by childhood obesity. These numbers are slightly lower in Georgia, with 78 percent of parents being concerned about child health overall and 73 percent of parents being concerned about childhood obesity specifically.
To help curb the childhood obesity epidemic, 64 percent of parents in Georgia believe schools should bring back physical education classes, limit children’s access to junk food and offer healthier options.
For more results and to see how Georgia compares to the rest of the United States, you can view the entire report online here.
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