According to a 2012 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, up to 50 percent of a child’s waking hours are spent in school. Furthermore, much of this time is spent sedentary. In efforts to decrease childhood obesity, research has increasingly focused on physical activity in the school environment. As this body of evidence continues to grow, however, a knowledge gap has formed between research and school design practice.
With up to 50 percent of students’ daily energy intake occurring in the school building, schools are often the focus of targeted efforts to combat childhood obesity. Recent evidence has shown that although school-based nutrition education programs may contribute to healthier eating habits, these programs are not consistently effective on their own.
In response, an exciting area of research is emerging with a focus on the physical design of school building features, such as cafeterias, teaching gardens, or access to drinking water, and the impact it can have on healthy eating behaviors and attitudes. As this body of research expands, however, little work has been done to quantify, categorize, and analyze it.
July 1, 2014, Chicago Tribune
By Jessica Wohl
The school vending machine is no longer an easy place to satisfy a snack craving.
Under new national nutritional guidelines that kick in July 1, schools that are part of the National School Lunch Program can no longer sell treats such as Oreos and Fritos. The “Smart Snacks in School” program from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) covers foods and drinks sold in vending machines, on cafeteria à la carte menus and for club fundraisers during school hours.
For years, school systems have been pushing for healthier foods on their breakfast and lunch menus. Now, schools must also make sure products in their vending machines meet new standards.
Companies that fill school vending machines have been busy preparing to ensure they have the right products. The USDA standards include limits on calories, sodium, and sugar. Grain items must have 50 percent or more whole grains by weight, or list whole grains as their first ingredient. Continue reading
March 20, 2014, Medical Xpress
By Stacey Shackford
Those hoping to dilute Americans’ taste for soda, energy drinks, sweetened tea, and other sugary beverages should take their quest to school lunchrooms rather than legislative chambers, according to a recent study by media and health policy experts.
Soda taxes and beverage portion size restrictions were unpalatable to the 1,319 U.S. adults questioned in a fall 2012 survey as part of a study reported online March 10 in the journal Preventive Medicine.
Adding front-of-package nutrition labels and removing sugary beverages from school environments garnered greater support: 65 percent and 62 percent, respectively —compared with 22 percent for taxes and 26 percent for portion size restrictions. Continue reading
Almost one year ago, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released the report Educating the Student Body: Taking Physical Activity and Physical Education to School, which offered recommendations, strategies, and action steps that have potential to increase children’s opportunities to engage in physical activity at school, including before, during, and after school. However, many barriers exist to achieving the recommended amount of physical activity in the school environment.
In recognition of the one year anniversary of the release of the report, IOM will host a webinar on May 13 (3-4 p.m.) titled, “Making it Happen: Overcoming Barriers to Increasing Physical Activity and Physical Education in Schools.” The webinar will review the recommendations of the report and ways that schools across the country are working to implement physical activity programs. The webinar will consider barriers to implementation faced by schools and highlight ways in which district and school-level administrators are working to overcome these obstacles. Continue reading
Kids spend many of their waking hours at school. This puts schools in a unique position to help promote physical activity and healthy habits among children. However, many schools are deterred by fears of increased risk of legal liability for personal injuries.
A new article in the American Journal of Public Health outlines three school-based strategies for promoting physical activity—Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs, joint use agreements, and playground enhancement— and describes how schools can substantially minimize their liability risk by engaging in an number of different approaches that include creating and maintaining safe facilities, having adequate insurance, and partnering with other organizations to share liability risk. In some cases schools are also protected under governmental immunity, further lowering their liability risk. Continue reading
Aug. 8, 2013, Medical Xpress
Despite widespread cuts to physical education classes and recess, an Indiana University study has shown that schools can play an important role in helping their students live healthier lives. Schools that implemented coordinated school health programs saw increases in students’ physical activity.
“With support from teachers, administrators, and parents, our schools can become healthier places,” said Mindy Hightower King, evaluation manager at the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community (IIDC) at IU Bloomington. “Despite budget cuts and increasing emphasis on academic skills, schools are choosing to focus on improving student health, which ultimately can support improved academic performance.”
The findings involved 1,100 students from eight southern Indiana elementary and middle schools. Students who attended the schools that most thoroughly implemented HEROES, a program based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s coordinated school health model, were more likely to increase their physical activity levels. HEROES is designed to enhance schoolwide wellness through changes in physical education, nutrition, health promotion efforts for school staff and family, and community involvement. Continue reading
May 30, 2013, RedOrbit
By Michael Harper
Obesity is an epidemic that affects millions around the world. What’s worse, children are often particularly vulnerable to the dangers that come with being significantly overweight. In the United States, studies show that race and socioeconomic status is a major factor in childhood obesity, with African-Americans, Hispanics, and Native-Americans being the most likely to be obese.
A new study from Baylor University has found that these groups are especially at risk when fast food restaurants are located near their schools. Minority students were also found to be less active than students who attended a school without fast food options so readily available. Continue reading
May 15, 2013, Medical Xpress
By Valerie Debenedette
The availability of sugar-sweetened or diet soda in schools does not appear to be related to students’ overall consumption, except for African-American students, who drink more soda when it’s available at school, finds a study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
These findings are from a study of more than 9,000 students in grades eight, 10, and 12 done in 2010 and 2011. The students were asked how much soda they drank per day and school administrators were asked about the availability of soda in their schools.
The finding that reducing the availability of soda in school is not linked to reducing overall intake among students has been observed before, said Yvonne M. Terry-McElrath, M.S.A., survey research associate at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. This may be because young people consume only 7 percent to 15 percent of the calories they take in from sugar-sweetened drinks at school, she noted.
However, finding that African-American students are consuming more soda when it is available at school was surprising, Terry-McElrath added. This may be due to less availability of soda at home or because these students are more likely to buy soda at school if it is available there, she said.
Removing soft drinks from the school environment is a good idea, Terry-McElrath said. “Schools [are] either part of the problem or part of the solution and removing all sugar-sweetened beverages supports a healthy learning environment and development of healthy habits.” “Our analyses looked just at soda and not all sugar-sweetened beverages,” Terry-McElrath said. “We know from research that the availability of soda in schools is now quite low. However, other sugary beverages, such as sports drinks or fruit drinks with added sugar, are still in schools.”
The availability of sodas and other sweet beverages in schools varies widely across the country. For example, soda has not been allowed to be sold during the school day in New York schools since the 1980s, said Deborah Beauvais, R.D., district supervisor of school nutrition for the Gates Chili and East Rochester School Districts in New York.
“Restricting the sale of sugar-sweetened beverages in schools has all the best intentions, but one must also take into account what happens outside the school day and the beverages consumed then,” Beauvais added. “If children have the means and the availability, they will consume these beverages outside of the school environment.”
March 22, 2013, Yahoo! News
By Liz Goodwin
At 9:30 a.m. sharp on a Tuesday morning, all 1,200 elementary school students at PS 166 in Queens, N.Y. stood up and began doing jumping jacks in unison with a Beatles song blaring over the loudspeaker.
In Ms. Dianna Chappell’s third grade class, some kids began panting near the end of the required two minutes. One boy even stopped jumping momentarily, doubling over in exhaustion. “Oh come on! I’m much older than you!” Chappell yelled, as she continued jumping. Continue reading