A recent issue of Pediatrics discusses school snacks. Not the ones that kids bring from home. The ones that are sold on campus, but outside of the USDA regulated lunches. These snacks are called “competitive foods” because they compete with the regulated foods provided by the school for free or reduced prices.
Researchers studied the effects of regulating competitive foods on the BMI (body mass index) of thousands of children across the country. The study started in 2004 when the kids were in Fifth grade and followed them for three year until they graduated from Eighth grade.
In states with stricter regulations, kids gained 2 pounds less than in states with lax regulation. Not surprising. What is surprising, is that with childhood obesity rates today, some schools still allow junk foods to be sold on premises.
It used to be sugary sodas and Snickers bars in vending machines. That changed in many schools, but not necessarily for the better. Sugary Snapple isn’t any better than soft drinks. Baked potato chips are marginally better than regular potato chips. And Quaker chewy granola bars are not a health food.
What should schools do? Here are some ideas:
- Reduce the number of vending machines
- Make sure water fountains are properly working and make it easy for kids to refill water bottles.
- Sell fresh fruit instead of packaged
- Make sure school lunch is tasty enough so kids won’t opt for the nutrition void snacks
- Spend more time educating kids to read nutrition labels (Here is how to start)
What’s happening in your community’s schools?