The vast majority of parents of school-age children support strong national nutrition standards for all foods and beverages sold to students during school, according to a poll released this week by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the American Heart Association.
The findings come as school districts implement the U.S. Department of Agriculture's "Smart Snacks in School" nutrition standards, which set basic limits on the fat, salt, and calories in foods and beverages sold through vending machines, school stores, and a la carte cafeteria menus.
The nationally representative poll assessed parents' opinions of nutrition standards for both school meals and snack foods and beverages. According to the findinds, most parents favor nutrition standards for all food served in schools, and a majority are concerned about children's health and child obesity.
In addition, 72% favor national standards for school meals; 72% support standards for school snacks; 91% support requiring schools to include a serving of fruits or vegetables with every meal; and 75% think salt should be limited in meals.
Most parents hold a mixed or negative opinion of the nutritional quality of snack foods and beverages traditionally sold in schools and consider them to be only somewhat or not at all healthy, the poll found. This applies to foods sold a la carte (69%), in school stores (72%), and in vending machines (81%).
To meet the USDA's new smart snacks standards, a snack food must be a fruit, a vegetable, protein, dairy, or whole grain; have fewer than 200 calories; and be low in fat, sodium, and sugar. These guidelines follow similar nutrition standards for school lunches that took effect during the 2012-13 school year and are being met by approximately 90% of school districts, Pew said.
The poll was conducted by Hart Research Associates and Ferguson Research. Data were collected via telephone surveys between June 19 and 28, 2014, among registered voters who are parents of public school students.
Source: Pew Charitable Trusts