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Elementary Schools Are Making Some Progress in Efforts to Prevent Obesity, But Still Have Work To Do

New Research Examines Nutrition and Physical Activity in Nation’s Elementary Schools

Two new studies from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Bridging the Gap program offer important insight about policies and practices that can help children eat healthy foods and be active at school. Cookies, cakes and other junk foods were available to nearly half of U.S. elementary school students in vending machines, à la carte lines and school stores during the 2009–10 school year, according to a study published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. Unhealthy snack foods were strikingly more prevalent in schools in the South, where obesity rates are the highest in the nation.

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  • Elementary Schools Improving Some Nutrition Practices, Making No Progress on Physical Activity
    Major new report finds that elementary schools are making some improvements to school meals and allowing sales of only healthy beverages on campus. Since the 2006–07 school year, more elementary schools are offering whole grains and low-fat milks for lunch, but schools have not cut back on foods that are high in fat, sugar and/or sodium, such as pizza and deep-fried potatoes. There also is an emerging trend among elementary schools to allow only healthy beverages, such as water, 100 percent juice and low-fat milks, to be sold outside of school meals. Schools have reported virtually no changes to physical education, recess or after-school programs that encourage physical activity.

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    School Nurses, School-Based Health Centers and Childhood Overweight: A report from a roundtable meeting to explore the role of school health professionals in preventing childhood overweight.
    Childhood Overweight: What the Research Tells Us (2007)