Healthy-eating programs in schools can shrink the amount of junk food and soda that students consume if the programs involve parents, teachers, staff and administrators, according to a Kaiser Permanente Southern California study released Wednesday.
"Schools are an ideal place for establishing lifelong healthy eating habits, but until now that's been easier said than done," said study lead author Karen J. Coleman of Kaiser's Department of Research and Evaluation.
Funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Research Initiative, the Healthy Options for Nutrition Environments in School study used a "public health approach" to change nutrition policies in eight elementary and middle schools over a three-year period.
The study "helped us understand how communities and schools could work together to get kids to eat healthier at school and help address childhood obesity," Coleman said.
Researchers found that more parent-staff involvement decreased the amount of unhealthy foods and beverages by 30 percent in intervention schools.
As part of the study, researchers worked with teachers and administrators to change unhealthy nutrition practices. For example, instead of rewarding good classroom behavior with food or drinks, they encouraged non-food prizes. And nutrition-conscious catering was used for schoolwide events, classroom celebrations and fundraising events.
Researchers said schools were able to raise more money using healthy events like "jog-a-thons" instead of carnivals selling popcorn and pizza.
-- City News Service