News in Childhood Nutrition

USDA Nutrition Standard and "Farm to School" Grant Contributes to Reducing Childhood Obesity Rates

September was National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and with one in three children in the U.S. being obese or overweight, there is an increasing need to combat childhood obesity in our schools. The USDA Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 funded the Farm to School Grant Program to bring healthier foods to children nationwide and has made incredible strides in the past year:

  • 50% of funded projects include expanding healthy menu options offered in the cafeteria;
  • 46% include training for food service staff about menu planning, meal preparation, and cooking with local and regional foods;
  • 65% include nutrition education activities;
  • 40% of farm to school grants were awarded to rural schools or districts;
  • 38% of grants were distributed in StrikeForce states and territories to address challenges associated with rural poverty.

The grant has helped 12,300 schools provide more nutritious meal options made with local ingredients for 6.9 million students, while at the same time expanding market opportunities for family farmers and ranchers in their communities. The USDA will soon be releasing new census data on Farm to School programs for all programs nation-wide. Have schools in your counties felt the benefits of this grant?

To read the USDA Press Release, click here: USDA Farm to School Press Release

To read about California's Farm to School Program, visit their website: the California Farm to School Network

Also, click here to find resources and our recently hosted webinar on CDPH MCAH Nutrition and Physical Activity Guidelines for Adolescents

Researchers find that longer lunch periods will encourage greater consumption of vegetables for elementary and middle school children

Now that the USDA is taking steps to provide students with more nutritious meal options, are children actually eating them? Researchers following up on the Modifying Eating and Lifestyles at School (MEALS) study were interested in determining if the length of a child's lunchtime was affecting their fruit and vegetable consumption so they observed 1,001 students during lunch breaks. They observed students from six schools in an urban, low-income school district. Their lunch breaks ranged from 20 -30 minutes with eating times varying from 10-33 minutes, and an average eating time of 23.9 minutes per child. The study determined that children were less likely to pick up a fruit or vegetable to eat when the amount of time they had to eat was 20 minutes or less. Students with 25 minutes or more consumed more or their entrée, milk, and vegetables.

While the study accepts that lengthening lunchtimes is not always an option, they do suggest that schools coordinate lunch lines in more efficient ways to allow children more time to eat. It is amazing to think of how something as small as five minutes a day could affect a child's health outcomes as they grow. What kind of role does your MCAH program play in school lunchtimes?

To read the LA Times article, click here: In school cafeterias, a longer lunch is a more healthful lunch, study says

To read more about the study, click here: Lunchtime Study ANDJ