Master's Culminating Experience
Background: The proliferation of snack foods in school lunch programs has necessitated the USDA to regulate its consumption by implementing policies regarding its use. The competitive food guidelines were enacted in June 2013 through the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. This required development of federal nutritional guidelines snack foods had to meet in order to be considered a competitive food and thus sold in school lunchrooms.
Objectives: The purpose of this study is to describe the current snack food offerings in select Ohio high schools, and to determine how these snack foods affect the consumption of healthier free and reduced meal options. We also describe factors that influence decision making in lunchrooms and to explore effective ways to encourage healthier food decision making.
Methods: This is a descriptive study that uses plate waste data from select Ohio schools to determine food choice among students from three High schools. Model used for this study was from Cornell University's Smarter Lunch Rooms Movement.
Results: The major factors that affected the consumption of snack foods was the variety, availability, and district poverty level. Schools in the less affluent neighborhoods were more likely to consume more of the reimbursable meals. The more affluent schools had more consumption of snack foods. Fifteen of the 19 snack foods met the new competitive food guideline.
Conclusion: To encourage greater consumption of healthier meal options, a multifaceted approach needs to be adopted. This approach should include efforts from the government, school’s Food Service Directors, parents and students.
Obianagha, C. C. (2014). A Description of Snack Foods in Select Ohio Schools: A Baseline Prior to USDA New Competitive Food Guidelines. Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio.