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Stronger School Lunch Standards May Help Cut Child Obesity

Last Updated: May 09, 2022.

5/9 -- Better School Lunches Tied to Lower U.S. Child Obesity Rates

MONDAY, May 9, 2022 (HealthDay News) -- Implementation of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 may have reduced the trajectory toward obesity among low-income children, according to a study published online May 5 in JAMA Network Open.

Andrea S. Richardson, Ph.D., from RAND Corporation in Pittsburgh, and colleagues evaluated whether associations between the free or reduced-price National School Lunch Program and body mass growth differed after implementation of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. The analysis included 5,958 children from low-income families eligible for the free or reduced-price lunches (household income <185 percent of the federal poverty level) who attended public schools.

The researchers found that before the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 implementation, grade 5 free or reduced-price National School Lunch Program participants had a higher body mass index (BMI) difference from obesity threshold than nonparticipants (β = 0.54; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.27 to 0.81) when adjusting for their prior BMI difference trajectory. This association was attenuated after the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 implementation (β = −0.07; 95 percent confidence interval, −0.58 to 0.45), and grade 5 associations were different across cohorts.

"Increasing access to school meals with more rigorous nutritional requirements that are culturally pleasing to children may be needed to achieve greater success in reducing child obesity," the authors write.

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