Staff involvement key to nutrition program success

Study used a public health approach to change nutrition environments and policies over a three-year period.

June 28—Programs to promote healthy eating can substantially reduce the amount of unhealthy foods and beverages on school grounds if the programs focus on a school’s specific needs and involve teachers, parents, staff, and administrators, according to a Kaiser Permanente Southern California study published in BioMed Central’s open access journal International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.

The Healthy Options for Nutrition Environments in Schools (Healthy ONES) study used a public health approach to change nutrition environments and policies in eight elementary and middle schools over a three-year period. The study was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Research Initiative and included 400 students.

Researchers found that using a more participatory public health approach decreased by 30% the amount of unhealthy foods and beverages in intervention schools. Control schools, by comparison, had a 26% increase in these items. Healthy food brought from outside sources also increased during lunch in intervention schools.