Strict school lunch standards tied to healthy weight

April 8, 2013, Reuters

By Andrew M. Seaman

Strict school lunch standards that are similar to new regulations from the U.S. government may be tied to healthier body weights among students, according to a new study.

“I think it’s evidence that healthier school lunches have a positive effect but it’s preliminary evidence. It’s far from definitive,” said Anne Barnhill, who studies food policy at University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia but was not involved with the new research.

The new findings, published in JAMA Pediatrics on April 8, bode well for the standards introduced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in January 2012 that — among other moves — set maximums for calories offered during lunch and mandate that only skim or reduced-fat milk are offered to students. Continue reading

USDA announces new funding opportunity for childhood obesity prevention research

On Feb. 8, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it would be funding up to $5 million in new grants for childhood obesity prevention research.

The grants are funded through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), which funds competitive grants for fundamental and applied research, education, and extension to address food and agricultural sciences. These new awards fall under the AFRI Childhood Obesity Prevention Area: a program designed to achieve the long-term outcomes of reducing the prevalence of overweight and obesity among children and adolescents aged 2-19. Continue reading

New federal rules aim to make school snacks more healthful, limit junk food sales on campus

Feb. 02, 2013, The Washington Post

Goodbye candy bars and sugary cookies. Hello baked chips and diet sodas.

The government for the first time is proposing broad new standards to make sure all foods sold in schools are more healthful, a change that would ban the sale of almost all candy, high-calorie sports drinks, and greasy foods on campus.

Under new rules the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) proposed Feb. 2, school vending machines would start selling water, lower-calorie sports drinks, diet sodas, and baked chips instead. Lunchrooms that now sell fatty “a la carte” items like mozzarella sticks and nachos would have to switch to healthier pizzas, low-fat hamburgers, fruit cups, and yogurt. Continue reading

USDA to allow more meat, grains in school lunches

Dec 8, 2012, Yahoo News

By Mary Clare Jalonick

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is responding to criticism over new school lunch rules by allowing more grains and meat in kids’ meals.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told members of Congress in a letter on Dec. 7 that the department will do away with daily and weekly limits of meats and grains. Several lawmakers wrote the department after the new rules went into effect in September saying kids aren’t getting enough to eat. Continue reading

USDA awards first grants to increase local foods in eligible schools

Nov. 14, 2012, USDA Office of Communications

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan today announced more than $4.5 million in grants for 68 projects, spanning 37 states and the District of Columbia, to connect school cafeterias with local agricultural producers.

“When schools buy food from nearby producers, their purchasing power helps create local jobs and economic benefits, particularly in rural agricultural communities,” Merrigan said. “Evidence also suggests that when kids understand more about where food comes from and how it is produced, they are more likely to make healthy eating choices.” Continue reading

Using online tools to increase access to nutrition messages for low-income mothers

Research presented on Oct. 29 at the American Public Health Association’s 140th Annual Meeting & Exposition discussed the process of developing new online communication tools that promote healthy eating behaviors to low-income mothers.

The study, led by Judy Wilson of the Office of Research and Analysis in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), also looked at the information-seeking behaviors of low-income mothers as well as the message attributes that they found most appealing. Continue reading

Study: Impact of early school-based nutrition education program

Research presented on Oct. 29 at the American Public Health Association 140th Annual Meeting & Exposition assessed the effectiveness and impact of early school-based nutrition programs on the knowledge and behaviors of kindergarten students and first- and second-graders.

The study conducted by Kelli Williams, Ph.D., R.D., L.D., and a team of dietetics professors at Marshall University in West Virginia also looked at the effectiveness of school lessons as delivered by interns and registered dieticians. Continue reading

Are healthy foods really more expensive? It depends on how you measure the price

Most Americans do not eat enough fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to meet federal dietary recommendations. A commonly cited reason for this deficiency is that healthy foods cost more than less healthy options. However, a recent study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that nutritious foods – such as grains, vegetables, fruit, and dairy – typically cost less than items high in saturated fat and added sugars. Continue reading

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

Aug. 31, 2012, HHS News Release

September marks the start of National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, a time for us to encourage America’s children to develop healthy habits that can last a lifetime.

All kids deserve to experience the positive health benefits of daily physical activity and healthy eating, and have those opportunities available to them. Continue reading

USDA celebrates the start of a healthier school year for America’s kids

Aug. 29, 2012, USDA Press Release

Agriculture Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon announced on Aug. 29 that America’s students will see healthier and more nutritious foods in the cafeteria as they return to school this year. The new nutrition standards for school meals, implemented as a result of the historic Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, will help to combat child hunger and obesity and improve the health and nutrition of the nation’s children. Continue reading